What Happens at the Scrum?

August 2, 2023

The scrum is an extremely recognizable part of rugby but what actually happens at the scrum?

To the untrained eye, the scrum looks like a giant pile of large people pushing each other and some people have their heads in some odd places. The scrum is actually a competition for possession used to restart play after a minor infraction or after an injury stoppage. 

A scrum can be called from a penalty but is required from a forward pass or knock-on. The referee sets a scrum by making a mark where the infringement occurred and the break foot of each hooker goes either side of that mark. The break foot is a new rule to keep stability in the scrum, basically, the hooker has one foot further forward than the other. 

The hooker sets their team’s side of the scrum break foot on their side of the mark. The two props then bind onto the hooker. The hooker’s arms go over the props’ backs they bind onto the props shirt usually around the outside shoulder blade. While the props bind onto the hooker’s shirt around the hip. Tight binds between the front-rowers help prevent the opposing scrum from being able to split players off from the scrum by applying pressure through those binds. The front-row’s job is to direct all the power of the scrum through into the other team’s front row. 

The next players to bind into the scrum are the second-rows, they are the players who have the most awkward job. Their head goes into the gap between the thighs of the prop and hooker. The inside arm of the second row binds onto the other second row, over their back and onto the shirt at around the bottom of the ribcage. The outside hand of the second row goes between the legs of the prop and binds onto the shorts on the inside leg of the prop around the upper thigh. The second-rows’ job is to push the front rows, the second-rows are known as the engine room they provide most of the power for the scrum. 

The final players to bind into the scrum are the loose forwards. The name comes from the fact that they are not completely bound into the scrum and have an arm “loose”. The first two loose-forwards are the flanker. They have their inside shoulder just below the butt-cheek of the prop and their inside arm binds across the second-row’s back onto the shirt around the inside shoulder, the flankers’ outside arm is free. The last member of the loose forwards is the number eight. They bind onto the shorts on the outside legs of the 2nd-rowers at around the hip. The number-eight has their shoulders just under the buttcheeks of the 2nd rowers. The loose forwards have a role to play in scrummaging. The flanker help prevent the props from moving sideways while the number-eight helps keep balance in the scrum and adds extra power to through the center of the scrum. However, loose forward also have the added responsibility of breaking from the scrum once the ball is out. Since they have an arm free they are able to get out of the scrum fastest and are usually responsible for making the first tackle from a defensive scrum or clear out the first ruck on an attacking scrum. 

So once all of the assembly work for the scrum is done the referee give a cadence. On crouch, all the players move into position for the scrum, low to the ground back straight but the two teams are not actually touching. On bind, the two teams bind onto each other but don’t fully engage yet. Finally, on the set call both teams engage.

 Once the scrum has stabilized after the initial hit the scrum-half for the attacking team puts the ball into the scrum and both packs try to push the other off the ball. 

The attacking team’s hooker hooks the ball and the scrum drives over the ball so that it ends up at the foot of number eight. From there the number-eight either picks the ball up and carries or passes or the scrum-half passes it out. After that, the scrum is over.

Since smaller errors like forward passes or knock-ons are very common in a game scrums are frequent occurrences. So being solid at your scrum is a must if you want to win a rugby game. Being able to turn over the opposition at the scrum is nice but very difficult to do so it’s not that important as long as your team isn’t getting obliterated on defensive scrums. 

Scrums are one of the most crucial areas in rugby you must be competent both offensive and defensively to win a game. 


Alexander MacDonald: 

Former Rooster, current Journalism student at Arizona State’s Cronkite School, 3rd-year scrum-half and social manager for ASU Rugby.