ESPNscrum on Scrums
The players weigh in on the new scrum
Tom Hamilton
August 14, 2013
The British & Irish Lions and Australia go head-to-head © Getty Images

David Flatman's views on the new scrums

This weekend sees the start of the new scrum calling sequence 'crouch, bind, set' with both the Rugby Championship and the Top 14 adopting the revised method of engagement.

We have already heard from the stakeholders on their views on the new calling sequence and also from a few coaches. It is now the turn of the players.

ESPN spoke to a few front-rowers to gage their views on the new scrum with Leicester and England hooker George Chuter, England's Henry Thomas, Exeter's Chris Whitehead, ex-Bath and England prop David Flatman and Samoa's Census Johnston featuring. We also dropped in Stephen Moore's thoughts ahead of this weekend's Championship opener against the All Blacks

George Chuter

- England and Leicester Tigers hooker

On the new scrum call: "We've done some live sessions in the club and it was a little bit hit and miss to begin with. The gap is considerably smaller than it has been. But once you get used to that fact, there's not a huge amount of difference. I'm not too sure if the 25% is correct or not, it feels like more of a decrease in power. But put it this way, if you want to cheat in the scrum, there's still ample opportunity to cheat."

On the rules changing every year: "It's not ideal. You'd like to think you can play the game for 10 years and be relatively similar in terms of the laws. The governing bodies have responsibility in their own right and they have their job to do.

Leicester hooker George Chuter hands off Chris Robshaw, Harlequins v Leicester Tigers, Aviva Premiership, The Stoop, London, England, April 2, 2011
© Getty Images

"The rules and the cadence are not the real issue, the issue is with the players and, without criticising them, the referees. The laws haven't really changed regarding the feed of the scrum and the straight put-in, but the game has evolved with the players getting bigger and stronger. The attitude of the players has to be to scrummage positively and that means staying up and vying for position, it doesn't mean collapsing and going in at angles and walking around and pulling when you're meant to be pushing.

"If we had players who weren't so obsessed with cheating and just trying to break even then we would have a better scrum. The referees need to have a greater appreciation of the way players cheat rather than refereeing what they see. They need to go into clubs and talk to players and find out what they're doing in the scrum."

On the change to the straight feed: "I'm at a loss to explain how that put-in has got so crooked. I can understand hooking going out of style because with the weight of the players, the dynamic has gone to more hit and shove. But in defence of the referees, they have a lot to look at in the game. It's a big job to referee a game of rugby, I'm in no doubt over that."

Census Johnston

- Samoa and Toulouse prop

On the new scrum calls following Bayonne v Toulouse: "They are a lot different. You use more energy than the last set of scrums we had last year. You have to be a lot fitter. When they go to put in the ball, you're using a lot more energy to keep the scrum straight, you are using your upper body a lot more - rather than when you hit and engaged, you moved forward and the ball was in and out.

"I was a bit sceptical over how they would be as I felt it could end up being a no-pushing contest. But I think it will work out well for the game, there should be less disruption and collapses and they should be better for rugby.

Toulouse's Louis Picamoles offloads to Cencus Johnston, Toulouse v Ospreys, Heineken Cup, Ernest Wallon Stadium, Toulouse, France, December 8, 2012
Census Johnston receives a pass from Louis Picamoles © Getty Images

On how the scrums went throughout the game: "There were a lot less collapses. Once everyone gets into the motions with a bit more game time it could work a lot better. I do think you have to be much fitter.

"The referee went well but they have to be a bit careful with teams hitting and moving forward at the same time when the scrum is not settled. As the game wore on, the other team pretty much hit and then walked forward and then the ball went in. That gave them the front foot so they need to be careful."

On the type of prop these scrums will suit: "Speaking from doing them just once, it could work a lot better for the tight-heads. All they have to do is lock out and hit out whereas the loose-heads have to try and keep the tight-heads up and push them back."

On the rest of the pack in the new scrum call: "They have to use a lot more energy as well as they have to push out for 10 seconds more than they usually do. I think a lot of the onus is on the tight-head locking out and keeping the loose-heads down."

Chris Whitehead

- Exeter Chiefs hooker

On the role of the hooker in the new scrum: "They're obviously bringing in the new call for a reason - a) lessen the dangers in the scrum and b) speed the game up. Not a lot of people would be interested in spending the sort of money they do watching a game where 20 minutes of the game are wasted on reset scrums.

Chris Whitehead is held back by James Craig, Exeter Chief v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership, Sandy Park, Exeter, England, April 22, 2012
Chris Whitehead tries to break away © PA Photos

"At Exeter we are have a positive attitude to it all. We've had a couple of sessions with a referee where we've done live scrums and out of 100 scrums I think one went down. Certainly the safety aspect for me, as a hooker, is a lot more positive. They are still competitive with no crooked feeds. Fingers crossed it doesn't go to the stage where it is stop, start but I think it will be a positive move overall."

On whether hookers will lose power in the scrum when hooking: "No not necessarily. The hooking aspect, when done right, is pretty much one or two seconds. It genuinely has gone back to the old school way of scrummaging. When I first learnt to hook it took some time to get used to it.

"I do like the idea of having to hook for your own ball and having a go when on defensive scrums. Hopefully there's no a massive loss of power output but it's not something to worry about, it will be a case of one or two seconds maximum when you have a foot off the ground."

Henry Thomas

- England and Sale Sharks prop

On the new calling sequence: "It was of a mess to start off with. When we first started in training we were guessing a little bit and it was new to everyone. We've done a bit of work on it and had a look at the trials and we've got the hang of it now. It's very different but we've just been trying to work backwards from being in the engagement to where you're meant to be before.

Sale Sharks' Henry Thomas thunders into Bath's Tom Heathcote, Sale Sharks v Bath, Salford City Stadium, Salford, England, March 22, 2013
Henry Thomas heads into contact © PA Photos

"There's definitely less impact in the scrum and it has an affect on your muscles in a different way. I think we will see a a few penalties and free-kicks early on. I think there will be some teething problems at the start for both referees and players. But then teams will get the hang of it and use it to their advantage."

On the emphasis of the straight feed: "I think that will be a bit of a difficult point. With the scrum-half working with the referee, this will give the defending team a good idea of when to start pushing and putting the attacking team on the backfoot. But I imagine they will get ironed out and players will figure out ways of overcoming that."

On whether in the long-term we will see a change in the shapes of props: "It's hard to tell at the moment. Everyone's hoping it will suit them and no one's sure if it will mean bigger and squatter props or as it's going at the moment, more of a focus on athletic players. You can practise as much as you want in training and in pre-season games, but no one's sure until the competitive games start."

Stephen Moore

- Australia and Brumbies hooker

So what are your views on the new scrum? Let us know below

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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