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Six Nations
IRB act to improve scrum spectacle
ESPNscrum Staff
January 26, 2011
England and Scotland pack down for a scrum, Scotland v England, Six Nations Championship, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, England, March 13, 2010
England and Scotland pack down for a scrum during a dour Six Nations clash at Murrayfield last year © Getty Images
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The Six Nations coaches have thrown their support behind the International Rugby Board's attempts to address scrum issues at the elite level of the game.

The IRB have been forced to act in the wake of official statistics that underline how the set-piece has become a blight on the modern game. Currently 60% of all scrums collapse in Tier 1 internationals (Six Nations, Tri-Nations and Argentina) and 40% of scrums are required to be reset while the average time taken to complete a scrum has risen from 41 seconds to 53.

Despite a slight decrease in the number of collapses and resets since the latest crouch-touch-pause-engage sequence was introduced last year, the IRB remains determined to tackle the issues and ensure that the scrum remains a "critical facet of the Game" and that it is also "a spectacle and a contest".

Coaching representatives from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales pledged to work with the IRB to deliver a stable scrum platform at what was described as, "a highly positive and productive forum" in London on Tuesday.

In addition to expressing their support for the scrum engagement sequence, the coaches also gave their backing to the IRB's policy of the strict application of scrum Law, including ensuring straight put-ins. The coaches also support the IRB policy which mandates that referees should crack down on illegal front row binding with a collective emphasis on ensuring that the tight head prop binds on the body of the loose head prop and not the arm and the loose head prop adopts the correct body position and binds on the body of the opposition tight head.

The IRB insists that this collaborative approach will be critical in assisting to address the problematic aspects of the scrum. Last year a similar approach agreed by all Tier 1 coaches led to a crackdown in key areas of Law: offside at the breakdown; offside from kicks; illegal maul formation and strict application of the tackle Law. This, in turn, resulted in a return to attacking and crowd-pleasing rugby.

"The meeting was extremely constructive and highly productive. All found it beneficial and it was encouraging to see universal agreement from the coaches about the need to continue to penalise the clear and the obvious in the five key areas of Law and in particular the need to address the scrum issues that are currently experienced at elite level," said IRB Referee Manager Paddy O'Brien.

"We are encouraged that teams recognise there is a collective responsibility to ensure that the high number of collapses and resets is reduced. The coaches expressed their full support for referees to employ a zero tolerance policy towards engagement offences and have given a commitment that their teams will endeavour to be compliant in producing a stable, steady scrum by binding correctly. The scrum is an integral facet of the Game and by working together we can target the issues while ensuring that player welfare continues to be the most important consideration."

IRB Scrum statistics at Tier 1 level: (Feb 2009 - December 2010)

Average scrums per match = 16, Average collapse per match = 9, Average resets per match = 6 Average Penalties/FKs per match = 5.2

The 2009 Six Nations had the highest reset rate with 47 per 100 scrums, the 2010 Six Nations had the highest collapse rate with 67 per 100 scrums. November 2009 had the lowest number of resets with 29 per 100 scrums and June 2009 had the lowest number of collapses with 47 per 100 scrums.

2009 Tri Nations collapses on engagement 52 per 100 scrums, post engagement 39 per 100 scrums. 2010 Tri Nations (current scrum sequence) collapses on engagement 25 per 100 scrums, post engagement 31 per 100 scrums.

Average time taken per scrum: 2009 Six Nations 43 seconds, 2010 November 53 seconds.

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