All change in the scrum

WHEN the whistle blows for the first matches of 2007 this weekend, there will be a big difference in the way the teams play their rugby, writes Davve Carey.As from January 1, the rules of engagement have changed, with the implementation of a new four-stage 'crouch, touch, pause, and engage' sequence.

WHEN the whistle blows for the first matches of 2007 this weekend, there will be a big difference in the way the teams play their rugby.

As from January 1, the rules of engagement have changed, with the implementation of a new four-stage 'crouch, touch, pause, and engage' sequence.

The new scrum laws follow an in- depth review by the RFU and IRB, following a recommendation by the IRB's medical committee.

The new sequence is a change to Law 20.1(h) which currently stipulates a 'crouch, pause, and engage' sequence.


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The new sequence is as follows:

1 The referee will call “crouch” and the front rows will crouch.

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2 The referee will call “touch”. Using their outside arm, each prop will touch the point of the opposing prop's outside shoulder.

The props then withdraw their arms.

3 The referee will then call “pause”.

4 Following a pause, the referee will then call “engage”. The front rows may then engage. The “engage” call is not a command, but an indication that the front rows may come together when ready.

The change comes amid calls from some medical professionals for completely uncontested scrums.

James Burke, a consultant at the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, and club doctor for Nottingham RFC, has stated in an article for the British Medical Journal, that the risks of serious neck injuries among rugby prop forwards are now unacceptable.

In the article, he states he would like the scrummage, at which the two sets of eight forwards come together with a combined weight of almost two tons, to be uncontested as they are in rugby league.

Burke said: “It's a question of safety. I originally subscribed to contested scrums but, having experienced the consequences of two young men needing to be in wheelchairs as a result of collapsed scrums, I have been forced to change my view.”

Despite this, local amateur rugby players are keen to avoid uncontested scrums, fearing it would remove a large part of the competitiveness from the game.

The risks of injury are widely accepted among players, and as with most other physical activities, are considered part of the sport.

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