Scrums are a major part of rugby union. If you have ever watched rugby union you will have seen a giant mass of players coming together to form a human battering ram in hopes of driving their opposition off the ball. Scrums may be a celebrated part of rugby union but do they also exist in rugby league? Let’s find out!
Does rugby league have scrums?
Rugby league does have scrums which occur after a player knocks on the ball. Technically they are similar to rugby union scrums but in recent years players have agreed not to push against each other and referees have allowed half backs to not feed the ball straight. The result is that rugby league has uncontested scrums.
Scrums in rugby league just like in rugby union are used as a way to transfer possession to the opposing side after a knock on has occurred. The importance of scrums in rugby league has declined over the years as they have become uncontested but they still remain a fixture of the sport. However, it is uncertain for how long they will remain a part of rugby league as many critics have been calling for their banishment.
Why Does Rugby League Have Uncontested Scrums?
Rugby league has uncontested scrums because over the years starting from the 80s referees allowed half backs to feed the ball more and more towards their own side. This made it almost impossible for the opposition to win a scrum, due to this players stopped pushing and contesting scrums. Technically rugby league scrums can still be contested
Prior to the 1980s rugby league used to have fully contested scrums just like in rugby union. Where the half back would have to feed the ball straight and the two hookers would attempt to strike the ball and win the scrum for their respective sides. The two forward packs would push and try to drive over the ball to secure posession.
These contested scrums started to die out in the 80s and had disappeared almost completely by the 1990s due to the referees tolerating half backs feeding the ball towards their own side. Half backs were even allowed to feed the ball behind their second row’s legs. This made scrums unwinnable for the opposition so players decided to give up contesting. Which is why nowadays players don’t even bother pushing.
The interesting fact is that technically (if you read the rulebook) scrums are not uncontested. Players have every right to push and attempt to win the ball during a scrum. To this day you will often see teams who are losing late in a match and need a turnover and to score to win the game push and contest scrums. They often aren’t successful in winning the scrum but occasionally they do manage to force a change of possession.
It is not exactly known why referees effectively killed the scrum by allowing half backs to get away with crooked feeds. One theory is that as scrums were a hotbed for violence and illegal infractions, referees wanted to clean up the game and make it safer by reducing the length and intensity of scrums. Players were known to headbutt, throw uppercuts and even grab each other’s genitals in the middle of scrums where the referees couldn’t see. This seems like the most likely reason scrums became effectively uncontested.
How Does A Scrum In Rugby League Work?
In a rugby league scrum 6 forwards will pack down similarly to rugby union but without the flankers. The players only slightly crouch and will bind with their opponent without any forceful contact. The half back will then feed the ball towards his own side and the scrum will finish once the half back picks up the ball.
There is no initial hit in a rugby league scrum and there is no pushing. Due to this players won’t bother dropping their body height very low and players will only loosely bind to each other. There is no chanting or call. The half back is allowed to get away with a very biased feed, often feeding the ball into his second row’s feet.
When Did Rugby League Stop Contested Scrums?
Rugby league stopped contested scrums in the early 1990s. Players unofficially decided to stop pushing the scrum as referees allowed half backs to feed the ball to their own side. Prior to the 90s rugby league scrums were fully contested.
Officially rugby league scrums are still contested but players rarely push. The official rules have not changed to the shock of many rugby league fans. If a team wants to contest a scrum they are well within their rights to. The only problem is pushing in a scrum doesn’t accomplish much when the half back quickly throws the ball between his second row’s legs and the ball is out of the scrum before the opposition can get any half decent hit started.
Are You Allowed To Push In A Rugby League Scrum?
Yes, you can push in a rugby league scrum. Teams that are losing late in a game will often push in a scrum in a desperate effort to win the ball. The reason there is rarely pushing in rugby league scrums is because half backs are allowed to feed the ball crookedly making it almost impossible for the defending side to win a scrum.
Why Does Rugby League Have Scrums?
Rugby league has always had scrums. They are a tradition of the game and continue to occur when a player knocks the ball on. Scrums promote attacking action as it gives backs an opportunity to attack the opposition’s backs while all the forwards are taken out of the game.
Scrums in rugby league are mostly based on tradition and if a player knocks on the ball the opposition could simply play the ball or tap and restart play like a 20m restart. However, there is one underestimated effect of scrums. That is the ability for the attacking backline to have increased space to attack. Scrums force both teams’ forward packs to be huddled in one small area of the field. This provides the attacking backs with a much greater space to unleash their fancy plays. They don’t have to worry about the field being clogged up by towering second rowers.
Scrums also force the defending backline to make 1 on 1 tackles which isn’t easy when you have backs running at top speed in open space. Due to this scrums make rugby league more attack friendly and lead to more tries being scored.
There are many differences between rugby union and rugby league but the presence of scrums isn’t one of them. Scrummaging is a part of both forms of rugby but modern rugby league has transitioned to uncontested scrums. Uncontested scrums became prevalent in rugby league in the 90s as referees allowed half backs to get away with dodgy feeds resulting in the defending team giving up on pushing.
These faux scrums continue to this day in rugby league with some critics calling for them to be scrapped. However, what they fail to realise is that scrums do increase the likelihood of tries as they allow the attacking team’s backline to have a crack at the defending team’s backs without those big boofy forwards standing in the way.