No hit does NOT mean no scrum

The scrum hit is a problem … And Tank Lanning suggests that losing it definitely does not mean that we lose the scrum as a contest.

The scrum has long been a bone of contention in rugby given the amount of time the resets and penalties are taking, and how damn difficult it is to manage from a refereeing point of view.

Yet it remains a bastion rugby union, differentiating it from its poor cousin rugby league, and it allows the “Fat boys” to play a meaningful role on the same field as the backline “Peacocks”, making the game unique.

The bottom line is that the scrum must remain in the game.

But a recent presentation by IRB Chief Medical Officer, Dr Martin Raftery titled “Scrum History, Scrum Force Project and Scrum Injuries” citing a number of studies that have been conducted predominantly at Bath University, presented the following worrying stats:

  • RWC 2011 had twice as many scrum collapses and twice as many penalties compared to RWC 2003.
  • RWC 2011 had three times as many collapses and four times the penalties compared to RWC 1995.
  • Analysis of the scrums at RWC 2011 showed that there are on average 17 scrums per game; half of which are won cleanly, a third collapse, and the remaining 20% result in a penalty or free kick.

Throw in the injury concerns, and one can understand SARU’s attempt to increase safety, and quicken up the game by implementing substantial changes to the amateur scrumming laws that sees the scrum “Hit” removed from the game at that level.

I am no Isaac Newton, but just the nature of two huge forces coming together in a semi controlled car crash is also asking for trouble, hence the scrum going either up or down, and being so difficult to referee.

I am also slightly biased in that my neck is held together by a piece of titanium and some cow bone because of the hit … Or lack thereof to be specific … The opposition did not engage, and the top of my head went straight into  the opposition loosehead’s leg … Which compressed vertebrae’s C4, C5 and C6 to the extent that the discs were pushed into my spine cord … Game over … Quite literally!

So the scrum hit is a problem … And perhaps losing it in favour of the old fashioned “Fold in” is not the worst thing in the world … And it certainly does not mean that we need to lose the scrum as a contest.

The contest will come after the hit, and might even bring back good old fashioned technique, and not just brute force, which is what the hit is mostly about these days.

The team feeding the ball into the scrum have the advantage in that they decide when this happens, and no doubt we will see a return to the “Steady, Sacs, Now” call which sees scrums tighten, dip and then explode upon the ball entering the scrum.

And on the opposition side, it will be all about exploding just as the ball gets fed into the scrum, perhaps even seeing a return to the “Ready, Ready, Ready … Now” call from the open side flanker or tighthead prop, the call aimed at readying the opposition for the explosion at the right time.

That is good old fashioned scrumming right there, and will not be for the faint of heart, or for the stick figures prancing around out wide waiting for the ball to be sent there way with a bow on it …

Make sure the scrummie gets the ball in straight, and you have an even better contest!

So the worry that teams will now pick lighter more mobile tight fives as the scrum won’t be such a big contact point does not hold too much water … Especially after you have lost 4 quick tightheads! And it is not as if modern day international props look too much different to flanks and centres these days in any case!

The one issue is how these young props, not having the hit as part of their armoury, will handle the brute force trauma of a hit once allowed to use it at first team level. And that will need to be watched carefully by both coaches and the authorities.


  1. Hi Tank
    I read your comments with amusement
    While I think that David Kramer’s Blokkies Joubert would have a few comments about your blog while he contemplates that game in 1921 – I too think that what Blokkies achieved in 1921 and myself in 1971 together with dozens of others who played in the front row since – just cannot be removed from this game.
    The fact is that we all learned to “look after” ourselves regardless of the neck size of your opponent.
    The truth is that in 1921 1971 and 2011 a front row forward removes the opposition loose forward from the game with his 6 inches – my wife says 3
    For those who do not understand my point – go play in the backline
    It remains as true now as then that in the last quarter of a game the 6 inch theory will result in the capitulation of the the opposition 99 times out of a hundred – given the rest of the team to be evenly matched. Yes – super subs are throwing me a bit if they are used correctly

    1. Buy your wife a new ruler! Perhaps one of the best comments ever on the Grunt. So very true …

  2. Nice article and I do agree with you.

    I am also from the “old” school and enjoyed srumming.

  3. Sage comment indeed Tank. A sensible suggestion from a thinking front rower. Your Bells awaits you! Hope the “brains trust” (an oxymoron if ever there was) in rugby, apply some clear thinking to this vital area of the game. I like the part about the scrummie putting the ball in straight. We seldom see that these days.

    Be interesting to hear what Sports Science has gathered and found on the subject so far. Maybe you can pop in there sometime to find out and add it to the debate. I’m sure it would make interesting reading.

  4. Hi Tackler and Tank,

    Great article and also enjoyed the reply, Tackler. I’m a PhD student at Sports Science and was first author on one of the “scientific literature” pieces that Jurie Roux refers to as evidence for the law change in the current news articles. We now have a “rugby research group” meet on a weekly basis at Sports Science so feel free to throw questions our way and we’ll do our best to answer things from this side…

    James Brown

    1. Wow, that is fantastic. Thanks James. If you ever have an open session, I would love to attend …

  5. Well said, Tank, about the CT stadium. How much did we pay for this?
    Also agree with about scrumming and putting the ball in straight gives the defenders a chance to get the ball. Then we will have HOOKERS and not another huge loose forward. Let the scrumeers touch heads and then the gap is not so big and the HIT not so energised. I played hooker for near 20 years and enjoyed the scrum and without injury. Maybe I was lucky.

    1. I played with a guy called Wayne Swanepoel, and my oath, he could strike. He used to hang on my shoulders and actively strike for the opposition ball on their feed. Be great to see that return!!

Comments are closed.