Monday, December 18, 2006

Collapsing the scrum

So this weekend I was at a Coach Development Program workshop, and over the course of the weekend the topic of "collapsing the scrum" came up. There were some differing opinions and some common ground which I'd like to discuss - it was definitely the most animated discussion of the weekend.

Pretty much all the coaches were in the agreement that we need to coach our players to SAFELY deal with a collapsing scrum. We were also in agreement that first and foremost, we need to teach players to scrum in such a way that collapsed scrums are minimized, and that player do have of control.

What we came to was that there is a "point of no return". Basically, you can apply the best technique, but times will happen when the front row loses control - maybe the opposite is cranking down, maybe it's wet conditions and they've lost their footing, maybe the locks are driving in an position contrary to the prop's health. maybe fatigue has taken it's toll - whatever it is, there is comes a point in many games where the scrum goes down.

Where we disagreed was the "how". Two techniques were discussed.

1. Very slowly, knees remaining bent and binds on the opposite front row and hooker intact, take the scrum to the ground in as controlled a way as possible. Every one stays bound till they are on the ground to keep maximum control.

2. Props release the binds on their opposites, while maintaining them on the hooker till they are on the ground. All players push their legs out straight behind - ending on a "flat on ground, face down" position. Once on the ground, release the binds on the hooker, and if they are uninjured, props roll away from the scrum, freeing the locks and hooker.

We also all agreed at the end of our discussion that whatever technique was used, the principles of "shoulders above hips, spine in line" should be reinforced throughout the collapse. ie, no nose diving!

I've come to my own conclusions after some significant research. A variation of technique 1 is used nationwide in Australia and is referred to by everyone as the "MAYDAY" play. In order for it to work, BOTH scrums must execute on command. The referee knows the Mayday play, and every scrum does (or should). As a result, the referee has control of the situation, and any player OR the ref can demand all 8 players execute on his or her command. What's key is that the players drop to their knees before dropping their upper bodies to the ground, ensuring that the hips are always below the shoulders.

Technique 2 seems to be used more in the UK - and is likely to be more effective when the opposition IS NOT cooperating, and is continuing to drive in an unsafe manner despite protest.

So, if we could get everyone universally to use one technique, that would be super. My decision now is to review both techniques with my players, to ensure they are prepared for every situation.

Its interesting that a google search of "collape scrum safely" brings up a zillion results about spine injuries. Some safety advocates go as far as to suggest that the contested scrum should be banned from the game completely.

Here is a paper from Tom Jones, the NAWIRA regional manager, directed towards referees.
This one, from the AMA, is about cervical spine injuries during the scrum.
This one, from the eMJA (Medical Journal of Australia) about spinal injuries in rugby union.

What do you guys think of these recommendations? What do you teach? Do you teach collapsing a scrum at all? Is there another technique that's worth sharing?

1 Comment:

KLK said...

As a DII women's collegiate hooker I've experienced my fair share of collapsed scrums and often in situations where the opposing side has no idea what to do in a collapsed scrum. In the pacific coast I've heard of "cobra" as a mercy call but that's about it. We made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting to teach our rookies a proper way of falling/escaping from a collapsed scrum so I had the distinct pleasure of having four props and a hooker on my back. On the converse side of things I played for a D1 competitive women's side at Pumpkinfest this year and I'll admit I collapsed the first scrum that I got pinched in (ie one of the props and hooker engaged at angles to drill me in both temples). I know that grey area techniques must be what makes advanced level scrumming interesting..but it also seems to be the thing that is unnecessarily dangerous. You can't help bad conditions but you can stop dirty tricks. I guess I'm just scarred by the fact that a certain team was binding dirty against my tighthead which resulted in to much pressure being put on her and her knee dislocating right next to me. We had a strong scrum, wheel us, drive over us, but don't feed the ball and bind dirty.