Scrum law amended ahead of 2019 Rugby Championship
Sports Scene

World Rugby has amended its much-debated scrum law in order to reduce the injury possibilities in the sport. Ahead of this weekend's Rugby Championship, the international governing body of rugby union announced that it had made a minor amendment to the law by reducing the "axial" or rotational load on front row players on engagement.

According to a statement issued on Monday, the amendment to the existing Law 19.10b outlaws the practice of front-rows placing their heads on to opposition players' shoulders between the call of "bind" and "set" on engagement. Reaffirming its commitment to evidence-based injury-reduction in the sport, the governing body also clarified that the amendment becomes effective immediately following approval by World Rugby's executive committee after a recommendation of the international federation's rugby committee to adopt key outcomes from the recent Laws Review Group (LRG) meeting in London.

Incidentally, the amendment came up after thorough research and evaluation undertaken by New Zealand Rugby, the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players' Association presented to the LRG.

The research has identified an increased level of axial or rotation loading on front-rows' cervical spines during the current scrum engagement sequence. The project also featured input by several international front-row players including Ken Owens (Wales), Rory Best (Ireland) and Jamie George (England).

In his media statement, World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said, "World Rugby is committed to an evidence-based approach to injury-prevention at all levels of the game and the scrum has been at the forefront of that approach. 

"This latest small, but important amendment to the scrum law based on robust research could have significant welfare benefits for front-row players at all levels and therefore the World Rugby Executive Committee was overwhelmingly in favor of approving the Rugby Committee's recommendation into law."  

High tackle changes

The new scrum laws will be first used on July 21 when the All Blacks take on Argentina in Buenos Aires and South Africa host Australia in Johannesburg in the opening round of the Rugby Championship.

According to the World Rugby, the amendment builds on the sport's successful focus on reducing the risk of injury during the scrum following the 2013 revision to the scrum engagement sequence, which has delivered a 25 percent reduction on compression forces, a significant reduction in scrum injuries and a more stable scrum.

Meanwhile, the executive committee has also given the go-ahead for amendments to the High Tackle Sanction framework following feedback from the recent World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina.

As per the World Rugby statement, the committee, after getting input from several tournament officials, decided to simplify the framework by removing reference to direct or indirect contact and streamlining the questions once a shoulder charge or high tackle had occurred.

An amendment to the mandatory mid-range sanction in the Regulation 17 sanction table to include both head and/or neck has also been approved by the committee. It said, "Any act of foul play which results in contact with the head and/or neck shall result in at least a mid-range sanction."