International Rugby
IRB act on uncontested scrums
August 19, 2009
Australia and France pack down for a scrum, Australia v France, ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia, June 28, 2008
Will the scrum be given a new lease of life under the IRB's latest rule changes? © Getty Images

The International Rugby Board Council has sanctioned new measures that they hope will rid the game of uncontested scrums.

Following successful trials in France, the sport's governing body have empowered National Unions to increase match day squads for domestic competitions to allow for an extra specialised front row player amongst the replacements.

The Council have also ruled that should a team lose all their available front row replacements then uncontested scrums will take place but the side opting out of the set-piece will not be able to replace the injured player - forcing them to continue with only fourteen players. This is a change to the existing Laws and ensures that a team going to uncontested scrums does not gain an advantage as was the case previously.

An IRB sanctioned trial in 2007-08 saw the number of uncontested scrums dramatically reduced to just two in 994 matches in France's top three divisions in 2007-08, compared to 145 matches finishing with uncontested scrums during the 2006-07 season.

The sport's governing body have acted following widespread concern amongst Member Unions that uncontested scrums were damaging the game and blighting many high profile matches.

The amendment to the game's laws is likely to see a widespread adoption of 23-man match day squads throughout the sport's leading domestic competitions with the condition that three of a team's eight replacements must be specialised front row players made up of two props and a hooker.

An alteration to Law 3 governing the number of replacements permitted in a match came into effect on July 28, 2009 and applies to the sport globally. The alteration allows National Unions with jurisdiction over matches in their territory the option of allowing up to eight named replacements in a match day squad. This will also operate for cross-border club or provincial competitions with the agreement of the respective Unions involved.

At this stage the amendments to Law 3 are for domestic implementation only by respective Unions, but the IRB will monitor the implementation of the amended Law within competitions.

"The IRB's Member Unions requested that Council investigate suitable measures to address the issue of uncontested scrums within their own domestic competitions. Establishing a protocol that maximises the opportunity for matches to finish with meaningful scrums, while maintaining the highest regard for player welfare and safety, was a critical factor," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"The solution needed to tackle the circumstances that lead to uncontested scrums, while ensuring that the unique shape and character of the scrum is retained. A process of thorough consultation and evaluation was undertaken, while a practical assessment in France demonstrated the merits of the alterations."


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