New scrum law to be trialled at upcoming Six Nations

Practice of axial loading to be banned in order to prevent neck injuries for hookers

A new scrum law to protect hookers will be trialled during the Six Nations. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

A new scrum law to protect hookers will be trialled during the Six Nations. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

A new scrum law that aims to reduce neck injuries for hookers is to be trialled in the upcoming Six Nations, according to reports in The Times.

The practice of “axial loading” has led to concerns of degenerative neck injuries and paralysis for hookers. It is estimated that 100kg of force compresses a hooker’s neck and spine on every scrum.

Axial loading refers to when a pack leans forward on hearing the call of “bind” from the referee. With the frontrows now slightly leaning on each other and not supporting their own weight, enormous force is being transmitted through the neck and spine of the hooker on engagement since their head is being driven into the shoulder of the opponent.

Axial loading was banned in 2019 but is widely still in use.

The new upcoming trial law makes it mandatory for a hooker to keep one foot forward during the bind phase in order to act as a brake before the frontrows engage. This is to ensure that the packs hold their own weight and maintain a small gap. The law will be in place at the men’s, women’s and U20 Six Nations.

The punishment for a hooker failing to put their foot forward as a brake will be a free kick.

David Quinlan, head of legal and player welfare for the International Rugby Players (IRP) representative group has welcomed the trial:

“This trial is definitely a positive step. We’ve had players very strongly advocating for it. We need to applaud World Rugby for moving on it. Ideally, we would have done it a year ago but the point is there is progress.

“I know concussion gets all the headlines but this is a serious player safety issue. It needs to be resolved.”

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