Everything You Need To Know About Rugby Scrums

If you ever watched a game of rugby you would have noticed players binding up with their teammates to form a human battering ram and charging into the opposition. This formation is known as a scrum and is a major part of rugby. In this article we are going to turn you into a scrum expert and answer all the questions you felt too silly to ask.

What Is A Rugby Scrum?

A rugby scrum is a phase of play where all of the forwards bind together and push against each other. The half back feeds the ball into the scrum and two teams try to win possession by driving over the ball until it emerges at the back of the scrum.

You know what a battering ram is? When it comes to scrum time rugby players try to turn themselves into a battering ram by closely binding with each other. They then combine all of their leg power and push against their opposition. If they can overpower their opponents they will drive them backwards and win possession of the ball. A dominant rugby scrum can even result in a penalty if a team’s scrum collapses or starts circling.

How Do Scrums Work?

Scrums work by first all of the forwards binding up together in a specific formation. The referee then instructs the two teams to make contact with each other. Then half back feeds the ball into the middle of the scrum and both teams push each other in hopes of winning the ball.

In a rugby scrum the 3 front row (2 props and a hooker) bind together with the hooker in the middle. Then the 2 second row form the next line. The number 8 stands behind the second rowers to form the last line and the flankers stand on the side with their arm around 1 second rower and their shoulder on prop’s upper thigh.

Once the two rugby sides are in the proper scrum formation, the referee will then get them to make contact. What does the referee say in a scrum? The referee says crouch (players get into a low position with a straight back and their legs loaded), bind (the opposing props grab each other) and set (the players hit).

After the referee has coordinated the contact phase it is now up to the half back to feed the ball into the scrum. The half back has to feed the ball in the middle of scrum between the two opposing front rowers. After ball is in the scrum the hookers try to strike the ball back to their side while the other forwards push and drive over the ball.

How Many Players Are In A Rugby Scrum?

16 players are in a rugby scrum in total with 8 players from each side. The entire forward pack from both rugby teams bind up together to form a scrum. The only time a rugby team is allowed to have less than 8 players in a scrum is when they have less players due to yellow and red cards.

As a rugby team is made up of 15 players when it comes to scrum time just over half of the players are obligated to pack it down with their teammates and scrum! The role of scrummaging falls very heavily on the shoulders of the forwards. Lucky for the backs they aren’t ever expected to scrummage.

If a team has 15 players on the field they must put 8 players in the scrum. However, if they have a reduced line up due to yellow and red cards they are able to put less players in the scrum. The absolute minimum amount of players a rugby team can put in a scrum is 5. This is only in a rare case where a team is reduced to just 12 players on the field. These mandatory 5 players include the 3 front rowers and the 2 second rowers.

When Does A Rugby Scrum Happen?

A rugby scrum happens when there is a knock on, incorrect lineout throw, and the ball gets trapped in a ruck or maul. A rugby team can also decide to have a scrum when they are awarded a penalty.

Rugby scrums can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is when a player knocks the ball on. Another common reason for a scrum is when the ball gets stuck in a ruck or maul. The referee will declare the ball dead and award the scrum to the defending team. Some less common reasons is when a player is tackled behind their own goal line or when an injured player is blocking the run of play.

How Many Scrums Are In A Rugby Game?

In an average game of rugby there are 14 scrums. In the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) there were on average 17 scrums per game, at the 2015 RWC there were on average 13 scrums per game and at the 2019 RWC there were on average 14 scrums per game.

The number of scrums in rugby has been declining. This decline in the number of scrums in a rugby match is due to:

  • Referees giving out more penalties – Referees have become very strict with scrums, even the slightest infringement can warrant a penalty, in the past refs would get the teams to reset and scrum again!
  • Players handling the ball better – The number 1 reason for scrums is playing dropping the ball. In the professional area players are more skilled at passing and catching the ball!
  • Players preferring to attack from lineouts – In the old days when a team was awarded a penalty they would choose to attack via a scrum. Nowadays modern teams have found lineouts to be a more effective way to attack and score tries.

What Positions Are In A Rugby Scrum?

A rugby scrum is made up of all 8 forwards (2 props, hooker, 2 locks, 2 flankers and the number 8). The props and hookers play the most important role in the scrum. The props have to absorbed the most force and push their opposition back while the hooker has to ruck the ball backwards.

Rugby scrums are strictly the job for forwards. You won’t find the back line anywhere near a rugby scrum. All of the forwards are expected to push and give their all in a rugby scrum. However, it is the props and hookers who play the most important part. The props and hookers are in the first line of the scrum and if they are not in a strong position and pushing hard the scrum will collapse or start wheeling!

How Do You Win A Scrum In Rugby?

To win a scrum in rugby a team must drive over the ball until it emerges out the back. Alternatively, they can force the opposing side to break a rule such as slipping a bind, collapsing or wheeling and be awarded a penalty.

The easiest way to win a rugby scrum is to smash your opponents so hard that they are driven back and lose their footing. If you can force your opponents to fall over and their scrum to collapse you will win a penalty. If you can’t force the opposing side to fall over you can still win the scrum with the help of your hooker. The hooker’s role is to strike the ball back. A good strike from the hooker and ball will end up at the back of the scrum where the half back can pick it up.

What Is The Purpose Of A Rugby Scrum?

The purpose of a rugby scrum is to restart play after a stoppage or infringement. For example a player has knocked the ball on and then picked the ball up again. In this situation the game can’t continue playing and needs to be stopped. So a scrum is awarded to the team that didn’t knock the ball on.

Rugby is a game that is constantly stopping and starting. One of the ways the game is restarted is via scrum. A rugby game could be restarted via other methods but the creators of the game decided that in certain situations a scrum should take place such as after knock ons.

What Makes A Good Rugby Scrum?

A good rugby scrum consists of ideal body position (low with a straight back, head up, abs engaged and legs ready to drive), communication (players need to know when to push), strong bind (the closer players together the more power they can generate), leg drive (this is where the power comes from).

A good rugby scrum is not simple. It takes a combination of technique, strength, communication and bravery. The best scrummaging rugby teams in the world know how to generate huge amounts of force through timing their push, using all of their leg power and staying a nice strong position throughout the whole scrum. It takes years to master the scrum and players have to spend hours week after week perfecting their skills.

Wrapping Up

After reading our article we hope you now understand all of the basics of a rugby scrum. While at first they seem a little strange they are an important aspect of rugby and once you learn how they work you can really appreciate the skill and power involved.

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