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The Rugby Scrum

Updated on October 15, 2012

Rugby Union Scrum

Rugby Scrum
Rugby Scrum

Rugby Scrum

Bird's eye view of a rugby union scrum
Bird's eye view of a rugby union scrum

The Scrum in Rugby Union

The scrum is a signature element to the game of rugby. It’s when eight members from each team form pack down and collide into each other. It is both a test mental test and one of physical strength for the players involved, and a source of great pride for the winner and embarrassment of for the loser. Those of us not crazy enough to pack down in the front of a scrum are unlikely to understand the pride involved, but you only need to watch a series of re-set scrums to appreciate the players’ investment. They often degenerate into taunting matches, and even physical fights.

The picture to the right shows a bird's eye view of a scrum contested by two of the world's proudest scrummaging nations: England and South Africa

The video below shows a brief animated description of what a scrum is.

Rugby Scrum Diagram

Player diagram of a rugby union scrum
Player diagram of a rugby union scrum

Rugby Scrum Video

So what is a Scrum?

The scrum is contested between the two team’s forward packs. Each pack forms a three rowed huddle.

As you can see from the diagram on the right, the front row is made up of the hooker with a prop on either side of him. Directly behind the hooker are the two locks. The two flankers go on each side of the two locks. The number eight packs down at the back of the scrum. The two front rows lock heads with each other and their respective packs push behind them. The halfback of whatever team has the ball rolls the ball between the two front rows. The ball then gets hooked back to the number eight at the back. Meanwhile the other team is also trying to both hook the ball back for themselves and disrupt the tidiness of the ball for the other team.

A few quick notes:

  • The packs must wait for the referee to call ‘engage’ before locking horns, and wait until the ball is in before pushing.
  • The props aren’t allowed to use their arm on the ground to steady themselves or purposely collapse the scrum.
  • The flankers must wait for the ball to leave the scrum before disengaging.
  • The ball is supposed to be rolled in the middle of the two front rows, but this is rarely policed. Usually it is rolled directly underneath the feet of the halfback’s hooker.

For more information, read this rugby scrum article at RugbyFix.

Rugby Union Scrum Video

Rugby Scrum Instructional Video

And when does it occur?

The most common reason for a scrum is when the ball is dropped, knocked down or passed forward by the opposition. After being a awarded a penalty, a team has the option of having a scrum instead of a kick for goal or sideline. They may opt to do this if a scrum offers a good attacking opportunity.

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International Rugby Scrum

The All Blacks and Wallabies contest a rugby union scrum
The All Blacks and Wallabies contest a rugby union scrum

Professional Rugby Union Scrum

All Blacks v Union Rugby Union Scrum
All Blacks v Union Rugby Union Scrum

The All Blacks rugby team takes on the England scrum. Greg Sommerville, the All Black loosehead prop prepares to engage with Andrew Sheridan, the England tighthead prop. Both have since retired from the international game.

The Rugby Scrum

A rugby union scrum in the mud
A rugby union scrum in the mud

Some rugby watchers get annoyed at the time taken from reset scrums. Television shows have started a ‘scrum clock’ illustrate the point. What is your view on it?

Scrum Opinion Poll

What is Your Opinion on the 'Scrum Clock'

See results

The Scrum Quiz

Don't worry if you still don't feel you know everything about the scrum. There is a reason rugby fans refer to it as the dark arts! Even people who know the rules argue about the outcome of the scrum, such as is the ambiguity of the referee's calls.

Take the quiz below and see what you've found out.

Test Your Scrum Knowledge

view quiz statistics

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