Need for new scrum engagement sequence
The speed of the engagement process makes the props binding on skintight jerseys exceptionally difficult. A minor miscalculation by a frontrower results in either a time -wasting and dangerous collapse or a penalty. Either means no attacking ball.
The lawmakers had no intention of “crouch, touch, pause, engage” evolving to cause this situation. The emphasis of coaches on the speed of the packs engaging is to blame for the current situation.
The solution to the scrum’s problems is to remove the emphasis of “winning the race across the gap” between the two packs.
To achieve this the scrum assembly sequence needs to be radically changed. This can be achieved by firstly getting the two sets of frontrowers to bind together. This will eliminate the “charge” of engagement, stop illegal binding and all but eliminate collapsed scrums.
Next, both sets of secondrowers enter, followed by both backrows.
The 16 forwards are bound but no one is permitted to push in this process.
Then three commands are given. “Grip” – the players tighten their grip on their team-mate and opponent. “Ready” – players adopt a strong body position and brace for the weight to be applied by all 16 players. “Weight on” –, at which point all the players are free to push.
The ball is then fed into the scrum. This sequence eliminates potential penalties, injures on engagement and drastically reduces the time wasting of collapses.
Stocky, strong props are still required so all body shapes remain needed in the game.
I have supervised a group of under-18 players in this assembly. It takes less than 30 seconds to assemble and liberate the ball from the scrum. It was stable, safe and produced fast, usable ball.
It also produced an unexpected by-product. If the scrumhalf feeds the ball in the middle of the scrum it becomes a contest, as the defending hooker can strike for the ball.
There is the old saying that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. However scrum time is “broke”. Our lawmakers need to act, to avoid serious injury and to revive “fast ball” so a new generation can sample the joy of attacking play from scrums.