“The frustration of reset scrums is set to diminish, and there will be harsher policing of crooked feeds, with the International Rugby Board announcing a new engagement process to be trialled globally.
A new ‘crouch, bind, set’ sequence will be used by referees to set the scrum, designed to enhance player welfare by reducing impact on engagement by up to 25 per cent at elite level.
While the changes were set to be in place in both hemispheres’ following seasons, the New Zealand Rugby Union will implement the new laws in this year’s ITM Cup in order for players to come to grips with the tweaks ahead of the All Blacks’ end of year tour to Europe.
It is also likely that they will feature in this year’s Rugby Championship.
In a revision of the current ”crouch, touch, set” engagement sequence currently being trialled, props will be expected to bind onto, instead of simply touching, their opponent, after the referee has called ”bind”.
The front rows will maintain the bind until the referee calls ”set”, when the packs engage.
Implementation of this trial follows extensive evaluation of the sequence during the recent IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, which indicated the possible delivery of a more stable platform leading to fewer resets and more successful scrums.
The process was overseen and recommended to the IRB Council by the specialist IRB Scrum Steering Group, which featured 12 scrum experts, including New Zealand guru Mike Cron, after a process of testing and analysis at all levels of the game by the University of Bath in conjunction with England’s RFU.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset acknowledged that the scrum was a ”fundamental and dynamic” part of the game and said the trial was about putting players first by delivering a reduction of the forces on engagement at elite level, which could have significant positive effects on long-term player welfare.
”The global implementation of this trial is a positive step, which will be subject to continual monitoring and evaluation,” Lapasset said.
As a follow-on from this, there will be a bigger emphasis on the ball being fed straight into the scrum – a bugbear of many traditionalists – because the modifications should lead to stronger scrummagers who are technically more efficient at contesting.
South Africa introduced the new scrum sequence into their school and amateur rugby at the start of the year, foreseeing that it would be introduced to the professional game in due course.
A game-wide educational process featuring coach and match official workshops will be rolled out ahead of the trial.
Currently there are five prospective law changes being trialled, as well as the one extending the TMO’s powers to rule on field of play incidents, and these will be considered by the IRB Council at its annual meeting next year.
The new scrum engagement trial will be before the Council at its interim meeting next year.
Any amendments that are approved will be in place a year ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.”