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The International Rugby Board Council has announced the implementation of a global trial of the ‘crouch, bind, set’ scrum engagement sequence, which is aimed at enhancing player welfare by reducing impact on engagement by up to 25% in elite competition.
Approval of the sequence on player welfare grounds is coupled with a call for game-wide commitment from law makers, match officials, coaches and players to ensure a fair and positive attitude is applied to deal with scrum issues facing the elite level of the game.Implementation will begin at the start of the next season in both Hemispheres a
This comes after an extensive process of testing and analysis at all levels of the game within the unprecedented IRB-funded Scrum Forces Project run by the University of Bath in conjunction with the RFU.
The five perspective law changes currently being trialled and the trial change to television match official protocols will be considered by IRB Council at its annual meeting in 2014.
This new scrum engagement trial will be before Council at its interim meeting the same year. As such, any amendments that are approved will be in place a year ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
As part of the new engagement sequence, the referee will call ‘crouch’ and then ‘bind’. The front rows crouch and using their outside arm each prop must bind.
A loosehead prop must bind on the opposing tighthead prop by placing the left arm inside the right arm of the tighthead and gripping the tighthead prop’s jersey on the back or side.
A tighthead prop must bind on the opposing loosehead prop by placing the right arm outside the left upper arm of the opposing loosehead prop and gripping the loosehead prop’s jersey with the right hand only on the back or side.
The props must not grip the opponent’s chest, arm, sleeve or collar. Following a pause, the referee will then call ‘set’ when the front rows are ready. The front rows may then engage.
The ‘set’ call is not a command but an indication that the front rows may come together when ready. The sanction for any infringement will be a free-kick.
A crouched position is the extension of the normal stance by bending the knees sufficiently to move into the engagement without a charge.
A front row must not form at a distance from its opponents and rush against them or pull them. The sanction for ‘charging’ will be a penalty kick.
The 25% reduction of compression forces is based on peak compression forces under the current sequence averaging 16,500 newtons for elite men’s packs and 8,700 newtons for women’s international packs.
The research was based on two phases of examination under the University of Bath Scrum Forces Project. Phase one included six levels of the game from international to Under-18 with six teams at each level and six different engagement processes.
The packs scrummaged with an instrumented scrum machine which measured the forces on engagement and the secondary shove post-engagement.
Phase two was live scrummaging with players in both front rows wearing pads which measured the forces on engagement.
The results from the elite teams showed that, averaged across all teams, the ‘crouch, bind, set’ condition generated lower peak forces during the engagement phase, demonstrating a 25% reduction compared with the ‘crouch, touch, set’ or ‘crouch, touch, pause, engage’ sequence.