Scrum engagement changes for new season

Not sure why it’s taken them so long to put this out, but here’s the official news release on the scrum engagement sequence

IRB to address scrum issues with global trial
(IRB.COM) Tuesday 12 June 2012

• “Crouch, touch, set” will be the call
• One part of an ongoing process to improve the scrum
• World’s scrum experts make up the steering group

A revised scrum engagement sequence will be trialled globally following unanimous backing from the IRB’s expert Scrum Steering Group.

The trial, which will incorporate the sequence “crouch, touch, set”, was approved at a meeting of the specialist group – made up of Union and players’ representatives, former players and other experts – in Bristol, England, last month.

The revised engagement process will be trialled alongside the five Law amendments announced in May, from the start of the next season in each hemisphere and forms one part of the IRB’s ongoing commitment to improving the scrum phase of the Game.

The sequence will see the front rows crouch then touch and using their outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing prop’s outside shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “set” when the front rows are ready. The front rows may then set the scrum.
This sequence was one of six that were extensively researched at six different levels of the Game, including Women’s Rugby, as part of the initial trial process. “Crouch, touch, set” was found to be the most successful and will now be trialled on a global level.

IRB Rugby Committee Chairman and former New Zealand captain Graham Mourie said: “Most people accept the scrum is currently a problematic area of the Game, accounting for roughly 17 per cent of match time in elite Rugby and with more than 50 per cent of scrums resulting in collapses or resets.”

The IRB is committed to addressing these issues and has tasked the specialist steering group to identify the causes and solutions. This is a positive first step, but it should be noted that we must wait for the outcomes of the three-year Scrum Forces Project before we can take an holistic approach to the scrum.”

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The scrum is a complex, dynamic area and it was very clear from the advice and expertise evaluated by the Scrum Steering Group that there is no quick and easy fix. There are many contributing factors and we need to take a complete view of the scrum environment including engagement, Laws, forces and player welfare.”

“I would like to thank all Unions for their continued commitment to the important process of improvement in this area and their full support of this initial trial. I would also like to thank the RFU for their ongoing support of the Scrum Forces Project in Bath.”

David Barnes, International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) representative on the Scrum Steering Group and Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) Rugby Manager, said: “The number of scrum resets in the elite Game has reached an unprecedented level and the new three-step process is a significant advance in trying to address the issue. As the IRPA player representative on the Scrum Steering Group, players will have input to any potential changes being considered.”
“Whilst it is vital for the scrum to remain an integral, combative element of the Game, the players fully support the IRB research into reducing the number of resets, while also ensuring player welfare remains the key priority.”

Didier Retière, France’s Rugby World Cup 2011 forwards coach, current France Under 20 coach and Scrum Steering Group member, said: “As coaches and players we have a collective responsibility to buy in to this process and work together to address issues at scrum time.
Graham Rowntree, RFU forwards coach, said: “We need to have less collapses and resets and anything that can improve this vital part of our Game should be applauded. I will be very interested to see how the trial goes.”

The revised sequence has yielded positive outcomes and it should be noted that the sequence is just one area of the scrum that is being reviewed by the IRB and its Member Unions.
The Group examined the results of extensive testing of engagement sequence variations in live and machine environments in a trial driven by the IRB Scrum Forces Project which provides in-depth analysis of biomechanical forces in the scrum.

The unprecedented IRB-funded three-year study is being run by the Sport, Health & Exercise Science group at the University of Bath in collaboration with the RFU and is intended to identify better playing, coaching and refereeing techniques for this key facet of the Game.

Leading experts from the coaching, medical and scientific fields are driving the two-phase study which has involved the whole spectrum of the Rugby playing population, from men’s and women’s international and elite professional teams to university, community club and school level.
Phase one, set against a machine environment, has been completed and phase two which will holistically examine forces in contested live scrums, is already underway with the RFU assisting in providing suitable clubs and teams from the Aviva Premiership to the community level to assist the study.

While the “crouch, touch, set” sequence has been selected for global trial, two other sequences will continue to be examined as part of the University of Bath research project. The outcomes of the Scrum Forces Project phase one have been presented to the IRB Rugby Committee and Scrum Steering Group for consideration. Phase two results will be presented during 2012 and early 2013.
The Scrum Steering Group comprises: David Barnes (IRPA), Mike Cron (NZRU), Didier Retière (FFR), Brian O’Shea (ARU), Norm Mottram (USA Rugby), Richie Dixon (GRU), Ken Quarrie (NZRU), Graham Mourie (Chairman of IRB Rugby Committee), John Jeffrey (IRB Council Member & SRU), Gavin Williams (RFU), Dr Martin Raftery (IRB Chief Medical Officer), Paddy O’Brien (IRB Referee Manager).
Scrum Forces Project Group consists of the Scrum Steering Group plus the following: Keith Stokes (University of Bath), Dr Mike England (RFU), Colin Fuller (IRB Risk Management Consultant), Grant Trewartha (University of Bath), Ezio Preatoni (University of Bath).

Exclusive: Scrum engagement law changed (ELV)

Exclusive (it would seem): The IRB have approved the change to the scrum engagement sequence for trial globally from next season (us in August, Jan 2013 for SH teams. This is in addition to those announced last week. You will remember that while this was mentioned in last week’s communique it was suggested it was going into a further round of discussions. Not so it would seem:

The new sequence will be “Crouch, Touch, Set”.


10. Law 20.1 (g) Forming a Scrum Current 20.1 (g):
The referee will call “crouch” then “touch”. The front rows crouch and using their outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing props outside shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “pause”. Following a pause the referee will then call “engage”. The front rows may then engage. The “engage” call is not a command but an indication that the front rows may come together when ready.

Amend 20.1 (g) to read:
The referee will call “crouch” then “touch”. The front rows crouch and using their outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing prop’s outside shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “set” when the front rows are ready. The front rows may then engage. The “set” call is not a command but an indication that the front rows may come together when ready.

News: IRB sanction global Law trials

New from the IRB this afternoon:

IRB and Unions sanction global Law trials
(IRB.COM) Tuesday 15 May 2012

  • IRB Council approves trials for five Law amendments
  • Full Union consultation and amendment evaluation undertaken
  • Laws Representative Group comprises Union technical experts
  • Successful trials undertaken at Cambridge and Stellenbosch
  • TMO jurisdiction extension trial approved for elite competition
  • The International Rugby Board and its Member Unions have sanctioned a global trial of five aspects of Law amendments following an extensive process of consultation and evaluation.

    The trial, approved by the IRB Council at its Annual Meeting in Dublin on Tuesday, will commence at the start of the next season in each hemisphere (August 2012 in the north and January 2013 in the south) and will be applicable to both international and domestic competition.

    Aspects of Law approved for trial include limiting the time that the ball is available at the back of a ruck and the positioning of taking a quick throw-in. In addition to the suite of seven Laws approved for global trial, three additional trials will operate during 2012.

    A trial extension of the jurisdiction of the Television Match Official will be introduced later this year, while the number of nominated replacements in Test Rugby will be increased to eight for a trial in the November window.

    The global trial has been sanctioned after an unprecedented evaluation process that kicked off with submissions and recommendations for 20 potential amendments from Member Unions and has culminated with recent trials of amendments to seven aspects of Law as a package at dedicated playing environments in Cambridge and Stellenbosch.

    This evaluation process is in line with the remit of the Laws Amendment Process approved by the IRB Council in December 2009.

    Unlike previous amendment processes, the process of selection, monitoring and evaluation has been steered by an independent Laws Representative Group, comprising technical representatives from each of the 10 Tier 1 Unions covering elite and community Rugby and representatives of the IRB Rugby Committee.

    Extensive evaluation of the Cambridge and Stellenbosch University trials undertaken earlier this year determined that each of the seven amendments could have a positive effect on the Game or clarify existing areas of Law and therefore a recommendation was made to the IRB Council via the IRB Rugby Committee to approve a global trial of all seven amendments.

    The five Law amendments to be trialled globally are:

    1. Law 16.7 (Ruck): The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck with a warning from the referee to “use it”. Sanction – Scrum.

    2. 19.2 (b) (Quick Throw-In) For a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player’s goal line.

    3. 19.4 (who throws in) When the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the non-offending team will be offered the choice of a lineout at the point the ball crossed the touch line; or a scrum at the place of the knock-on. The non-offending team may exercise this option by taking a quick throw-in.

    4. 21.4 Penalty and free kick options and requirements: Lineout alternative. A team awarded a penalty or a free kick at a lineout may choose a further lineout, they throw in. This is in addition to the scrum option.

    5. A conversion kick must be completed within one minute 30 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.

    In addition to the global trials, the IRB Council approved three specific additional trials:

    1. A trial to extend the jurisdiction of the TMO to incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try and foul play in the field of play to take place at an appropriate elite competition in order that a protocol can be developed for the November 2012 Tests.

    2. A trial has been sanctioned for the November 2012 Test window permitting international teams to nominate up to eight replacements in the match day squad for Test matches. In line with current practice at domestic elite Rugby level, the additional player must be a qualified front row player.

    3. An amendment to Law 3.4 (Sevens Variation) to enable Sevens teams to nominate up to five replacements/substitutes. Under the revision, which will operate from June 1 2012, a team may substitute or replace up to five players during a match. Approval has been granted on player welfare grounds to recognise the additional demands on players and squads owing to the expansion of the HSBC Sevens World Series where there are three blocks of three events on consecutive weekends.

    Council also approved the referral by the Laws Representative Group of one potential Law amendment that was successfully trialled at Cambridge and Stellenbosch for further consideration by the specialist Scrum Steering Group (overseeing scrum force project) to be considered alongside the ongoing review of the scrum.

    The amendment that will be considered by the Group relates to the engagement sequence and will see the referee call “crouch” then “touch”. The front rows crouch then touch and using outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing prop’s outside shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “set” when the front rows are ready. The front rows may then set the scrum.

    “We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the Game is as enjoyable to play, officiate and watch as possible at every level while player welfare is of paramount importance,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

    “Rugby is currently in good health with participation growing around the world, but there is collective responsibility to ensure that a structured process can be implemented to allow for global analysis and to monitor trends relating to the shape and character of the Game as it evolves.”

    “The approval of five aspects of Law for global trial is the culmination of the Laws Amendment Process which was agreed by the IRB Council in 2009. The journey to this point has been exhaustive and collaborative and has involved full stakeholder consultation and I would like to thank Member Unions for their buy-in and commitment to the process from the outset.”

    “The Laws Representative Group were encouraged by the outcomes of the initial trials in Cambridge and Stellenbosch. The next step is a global trial with full buy-in and which has been approved by Council on the basis that the amendments can have a positive effect on the playing of the Game.”

    “The global trials are not fait accompli. It is essential at the end of the global trial process that decisions made are in the best interest of Rugby worldwide,” added Lapasset.

    Thoughts? Will they work? What about the delay to the scrum engagement change?

    IRB Clarification – scoring a try?

    A little late to the party but as I’ve added these previously (and I see people get to my blog looking for these,) so who am I to deny you, my loyal reader, from the latest law ‘clarification’ from the IRB:

    Clarification in Law by the Designated Members of Rugby Committee
    1 – 2012
    April 10, 2012

    The FFR (French RFU) request a clarification for the following:
    Following a kick ahead, the ball goes over the goal line and whilst it is still up in the air, a player places his hand on it and grounds it. However, before this player grounds the ball, his feet are in touch.
    We would like to know:
    • Whether Law 22.4 (g) applies only to a ball already on the ground before it is touched down or other situations as described above;
    • Whether the situation, as described above, is equivalent to “carrying the ball”.

    Clarification of the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee

    Law 19 or Law 22.4 (g) applies;
    • If player is carrying the ball, enters the opposition in-goal area and the player’s feet touch the touch-in-goal line or beyond then the player is in touch-in-goal and a try is not awarded. Law 19 Touch and Lineout – Definitions
    • If a player is not carrying the ball then Law 22.4 (g) applies – Player in touch or touch-in-goal. If an attacking player is in touch or in touch-in- goal, the player can score a try by grounding the ball in the opponents’ in-goal provided the player is not carrying the ball.

    The designated members confirm that:
    1. A try should not be awarded,
    2. The player is considered to be carrying the ball the ball is in the air when it is first played and,
    3. Law 22.4 (g) only applies if the ball is on the ground.

    Keyboard warriors

    I find myself getting really irritated by people who sit at home (or wherever) and think its perfectly acceptable to abuse referees on Twitter or Facebook or wherever just because they happen to be involved in their games, or simply because they don’t understand what our role is and how we do it.

    What’s even more galling is that their impunity is brought up regularly and I just can’t help giving some back to those who suggest, or blatantly accuse, them of being cheats or biased. We’re talking about our top officials in the world, most of whom are professional referees. Their livelihoods depend on them being the exact opposite! Demonstrably and accountably so. Some would say that the abuse is “just part of the territory”, but why should it be?

    Read the full post »

    New IRB Refs Chairman interview

    Speaking to the IRB comms chief Chris Rea today (care of John Jeffrey, acting chair of the referees selection committee gives some interesting insight.

    Top news from these 10 mins:

    1) 8 strong aspiring panel for junior world cup in South Africa announced including: JP Doyle and Greg Garner (RFU), Leighton Hodges (WRU), Glenn Jackson (NZRFU), Angus Gardner (ARU), Francisco Pastrana  (ARG), Lourens van der Merwe (SARFU), Mathieu Reynal (FFR). Congrats to all, especially JP who is a good friend having got onto the RFU Panel at the same time.

    2) The TMO powers will be extended during the autumn international series to include things of concern in the passage of play leading to a try

    3) Paddy O’Brien requested to stand down from his XVs role and then was found his 7s role.

    4) Future elite referees do not necessarily need to be professional referees, but do need to be involved in Heineken Cup (NH) or SuperRugby (SH) to be considered for promotion to the new streamlined elite panel which will, on the face of it be more fluid than before (four selection meetings a year rather than two)

    IRB changes referee appointment restructure – Paddy O’Brien loses job

    Obviously a late night in the IRB press office after this was leaked to the BBC’s excellent rugby correspondent Alastair Eykyn.

    IRB unveils referee selection restructure
    (IRB.COM) Saturday 24 March 2012

    – Paddy O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience on Sevens
    – Selection committee to convene four times per year
    – Referee panel for June internationals announced
    – Process building towards Rugby World Cup 2015
    – Process allows for movement in and out of the Panel based on form
    – Paddy O’Brien to step down as IRB Referee Manager and transition to new Rugby Sevens role

    As part of its ongoing review process and commitment to ensuring consistency and that the best referees are selected on form to officiate in the biggest matches in the run up to Rugby World Cup 2015, the IRB has announced a restructured and more streamlined selection process overseen by a vastly experienced committee.

    The committee, which includes former elite referees Lyndon Bray, Tappe Henning (both SANZAR), Donal Courtney and Clayton Thomas (both 6 Nations), will now meet four times per year and make selections for the next international window with all performances reviewed as part of the next round of international selections.

    Following a thorough review of performances during the recently concluded RBS 6 Nations, the selection committee commitment to promoting consistency has been reflected in the latest selections with nine elite referees appointed to the top games in what is a busy June international window that also sees the beginning of the schedule involving tours to Tier 2 Unions.

    They are: George Clancy (Ireland), Jérôme Garcès (France), Craig Joubert (South Africa), Nigel Owens (Wales), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Romain Poite (France), Alain Rolland (Ireland) and Steve Walsh (Australia).

    Acting chairman of the selection committee and IRB Council member for Scotland John Jeffrey said: “The IRB is committed to ensuring that the platform is in place to promote the very best refereeing standards at the elite level of the Game. Our priority is the continued promotion of consistency and performance and our strategic goal is to deliver the best available panel for Rugby World Cup 2015 while at the same time applying the best-for-best principle in the selection of referees for each international window.”

    “There will be consistent movement in and out of the panel based on form to reward the top performers and those making the step up as we build towards RWC 2015 in England. In short, this means that referees are selected on merit, in form and closer to the matches being played. All Member Unions are committed to this process, which is essential for its success.”
    Underscoring its commitment to ensuring selection on form, there will now be four selection meetings per year to tie in with the four international windows. At each meeting, the referee panel for the next international window will be reviewed and named.
    The committee agreed that the key areas of the Game identified for particular focus by referees needed constant reviewing. Those five key areas are:

    – All aspects of the tackle with particular emphasis to be placed on the tackler releasing the tackled player and rolling away and arriving players staying on their feet
    – Offside at the breakdown
    – Offside from kicks
    – All aspects of the scrum, particularly the engagement process and front-row binding
    – All aspects of the maul, particularly what constitutes legal maul defence
    As part of the restructure, IRB Referee Manager Paddy O’Brien has chosen to take on a new challenge after seven years of excellent service in his present role. Having played an instrumental role in the advancement of elite match official preparation and performance, including the management of the referee team at two Rugby World Cups, he has decided that he requires a fresh challenge.

    O’Brien will now focus his extensive experience into a similar role for Rugby Sevens, underlining the IRB’s commitment to Sevens ahead of Rugby making its return to the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He remains central to the match official process and is supportive of the restructure.

    IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “Paddy’s exceptional dedication and application to driving forward elite match official standards has significantly benefitted the Game over the past seven years. I am delighted that he will be channelling all his experience into preparing the best up-and-coming match officials on the HSBC Sevens World Series to ensure that the very best referees are in peak form for 2016.”
    The process for replacing O’Brien will be announced in due course.

    Click here for the Summer appointments

    Interesting move and while I can understand the move to a more transient pool, I just can’t see how some of those have made the list at the expense of those not on this time. But then again, I’m not a former Elite referee (like Bray, Henning, Courtney or Clayton) with access to all the data and “objective” analysis. I’d reckon that Wayne Barnes will be back sooner rather than later! Of all of those, Id suggest he would be the real test of the ‘people moving in and out of the pool’ concept. We know he’s one of the best and even if you suggest his Scot 6N game wasn’t his best, his form and consistency over the years has to keep him in good stead.

    I’d also just add that I’d like to see someone like Ed Morrison go for the top job. Clearly a world respected official, he has been running the RFU Elite Referee Unit for a few years now. When I suggested that on twitter last night, a retweet from Mr Eykyn to his 12,000 followers would suggest I may not be alone!!

    Peter Oades – 1924-2012

    After a long illness, the Refblog extended family lost one of its architects this morning. The Rev Canon Peter Oades, grandfather of Mrs Refblog passed away after a long illness.

    As a mark of the selfless man he was, he waited for the return of his daughter (my mother in law) following a holiday of a lifetime that at one stage was at risk when he was taken ill back in January. He knew that. He knew they would cancel the trip, and he knew they’d shorten the trip if he went during it. So he waited. He must have been in pain, but he didn’t mind. The mark of a great man.

    Here he is with his son in law, two of his great-grandchildren and yours truly on Fathers Day last year. Refblog Jnr II was only a few weeks old.


    Pops. 1924-2012

    England Legends v Ireland Legends

    I’m occasionally asked by PR types (of which I’m one) to promote events, products or other fun stuff and mainly I don’t, but on this occasion I thought I’d play. Mainly because a mate of mine went to this one last year and said it was a top night.


    The England Legend’s team, captained by Martin Corry, will include Jason Robinson, Jason Leonard, Austin Healey, Mark Regan, Richard Cockerill and Andy Gomarsall.

    Ireland will be hoping to reclaim the Stuart Mangan Memorial Cup from last year with Shane Byrne leading a team including Mick Galway, Eric Miller, Malcolm O’Kelly, Nick Popplewell, Justin Bishop, Kieron Dawson and Anthony Foley.

    Pity the poor bugger who has to ref that lot!!

    But who ever has that lucky evening appointment, it’s all being played for a great cause – the RFU Injured Players Foundation, RPA Benevolent Fund in England and IRFU Charitable Trust in Ireland, and both teams are also proud to support Tickets for Troops at the game.

    Tickets are from £10, concessions £5, and are on sale from or . Sure you’ll be able to pay at the gate!

    Not a bad way to start St Patrick’s Day weekend eh!?!

    Paddy O’Brien speaks

    An interesting interview from the IRB Media team and Total Rugby with IRB Referee’s Chief, Paddy O’Brien. He discusses the RWC 2011, thoughts on changing the law on rucks, scrummaging and on refereeing pathways from non-European and SANZAR countries.

    Interesting that he thinks 2 of the RWC games weren’t reffed properly. Think we can all guess that one was the Bryce Lawrence fiasco in the SA v Australia, but what was the other??