Won outright: 101
Lost outright: 3
Result in free kicks: 37
Result in penalties: 73
So only 37% of scrums resulted in play being restarted
If 63% of all scrums result in a reset, free kick or penalty, are the fans
Brian Moore's article below identifies that the current state of scrummaging
is the fault of the All Blacks, followed by referees turning a blind eye to
existing rules and finally argues that by rigidly enforcing ALL the rules of
the scrum, referees have the power to stamp out this tedious non-spectacle
of 20 resets followed by a penalty. Or in Steve Walsh's case, to prevent the
referee making it up and awarding free kicks and penalties to whichever team
said the nicest thing about his personal grooming:
BBC rugby union pundit Brian Moore is a former *** for England and the
British and Irish Lions. He is also a qualified referee and has been growing
increasingly exasperated with handling of the scrum at the highest level. He
explains why these problems are spoiling the game and offers some solutions:
Instead of being a means of restarting the game it has become a way of
winning penalties. The *** - my old position - has generally become
bigger, because he is required to have power rather than hooking skills.
The important elements of scrummaging - engagement, binding of the front
rows and feeding of the ball - have been truncated into a split second.
This means referees cannot watch all parts of the scrum and players know
that if they get one element wrong, they are in a disadvantageous position
and are likely to get pushed backwards. As a result, they collapse the scrum
knowing the referee is unlikely to know who is responsible and is as likely
to blame one pack as the other.
To be frank, the whole edifice has become a grotesque farce and is blighting
Not only has the scrum become tedious, but it is dangerous - and the
International Rugby Board knows it. Paying customers are rightly registering
their disapproval and asking where the value for money is in watching the
Will the IRB listen? We will have to wait and see, but if they don't, they
had better get ready for a major lawsuit because the first injured player in
an international match will take them to the cleaners.
The scrum, according to rugby's laws, is a means of restarting the game
safely, quickly and fairly. In order to do that, there are specific laws
about what you can do and when, which are relatively long-standing.
The job of the *** is to hook the ball back when it enters the scrum,
consisting of 16 large men spending too much time wrapped in each other's
arms. When the rules are applied properly, they work. And although they
don't stop things going wrong, like a scrum collapsing or wheeling, they
stop as many as can reasonably be expected in a competitive and
The two packs are meant to form either side of a mark and engage, which
means the front rows binding on their opposite numbers. When the scrum is
square and stationary, the ball is fed in straight by the scrum-half along
the line between the two front rows. The *** hooks the ball back into his
side of the scrum where it emerges and can be used in open play.
A pack that is not putting the ball in can still compete for it by their
*** striking for it when it is fed in, or they can shove the opposition
off the ball. But, crucially, this can happen only when the ball has been
fed and not before.
The working of these laws means the roles in the scrum of ***, prop and
so on are distinct, and require different physical attributes. This allows
rugby's unique claims to flourish. It is a game for all shapes and sizes.
The fat boys can be props, the tall ones second rows and the diminutive
malevolent ones ***s.
Simple? Well it should be. So let me go back and explain why things first
started to go wrong with the scrum.
Around 1996, the birth of professionalism, the All Blacks, who have always
led the rugby world in new techniques, adopted a scrummaging technique that
involved their pack timing a push to coincide with the strike of their
England complained about refereeing of the scrum against Wales in Cardiff
This way they not only got the hooked ball, they also had an advancing scrum
that put them at a distinct advantage as their opponents had to retreat to
As is the nature of sport, this did not go unnoticed, and fairly soon all
packs at elite international level were adopting the same technique.
Gradually referees stopped enforcing the law requiring the ball to be fed in
straight, and scrum halves started to feed the ball further and further into
their side of the scrum.
The opposition *** stopped striking for the ball because there was no
realistic chance of succeeding, and his efforts would be transferred into
adding to the power of his pack's drive. Over time, the scrum became not a
hooking and pushing contest but one of power pushing, with each pack trying
to push as early as the referee would allow. According to the laws of the
game, this was not supposed to happen until the ball had been fed.
The increasing focus on power led to more and more scrums collapsing and the
IRB decided it had to do something to control scrum engagement. Thus,
instead of leaving the front rows to engage in their own time and under
their own auspices, they introduced a sequence which controlled the
In its various incarnations it was "touch, crouch, hold, engage". This did
not work, which came as no surprise to people like me who have played in the
front row. In fact, it made matters worse by effectively becoming a signal
for the front rows to engage with as much force as possible.
Then, for reasons known only to themselves, elite referees abandoned
altogether the law against early shoving.
Unfortunately, the IRB and elite referees have failed to understand that it
is what happens after, and not before, engagement that matters. That is
where the source of the current problems lie.
Ironically, the solution is the simple application of the existing laws. And
the proof is where the laws are properly applied - at junior level - where
they do not have these serious problems with the scrum."
Brian Moore investigates "The Scrum" in a special BBC 5 live rugby programme
on Thursday, 28 March, at 19:30 GMT