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Luigi Bocchino giggibocchino a
Mar 10 Ott 2006 10:20:14 CEST

  Scrummaging law change expected to be endorsed
08 Oct 2006   
  A planned law change to outlaw scrum collisions is expected to be ratified at a full International Rugby Board meeting in Dublin next month. 
The move, that has been prompted by a spate of injuries at all levels of the game, may also be followed by further ammendments concerning the tackle area. 
Following a two-day conference last week the IRB medical committee are proposing a change that would outlaw the practice of front rows charging at each other to form a scrum. 
Instead scrums would start with the two front rows opposite each other before manoeuvring themselves into position, ensuring neither side had any significant forward momentum before the ball was fed in. 
The change to Law 20 will be put forward at a full board meeting in Dublin next month and is expected to be ratified that will make it effective from January 1.  
Law 20 currently states: "Before the two front rows come together, they must be standing no more than an arm's length apart."  
But the IRB's medical committee has recommended that change is made to follow the Under-19 variation, whereby each prop should be touching his opponent's upper arm prior to engagement - thus cutting out the charge. 
The Rugby Football Union has been a key player in the move for change after such high profile injuries as that sustained by Matt Hampson during an England Under-21 scrummaging session.  
Estimates place the force the three front-row men have to shoulder at around 750kg and it is clear that spinal columns, discs and necks are not designed to bear that kind of load.  
Martyn Thomas, chairman of the RFU Management Board, believes it may be the first of many changes to make the game safer. 
"Player safety is an issue which is being addressed urgently, and changing the way a scrum is set is a start," Thomas told The Guardian.  
"I would like to see the IRB adopt the Under-19 rule that when one side is reduced to seven men in the scrum because a player has been sent off or sin-binned, the other team has to follow suit.  
"I know there will be a hue and cry at any changes to the way scrums operate, but one serious injury in rugby is too many. Our job as administrators is to respect the principles of the game while at the same time reducing the potential risks for players. Studies show that more serious injuries occur at the tackle area than in the scrum and this is another area which needs to be addressed." 
Earlier this year Dr James Bourke, a consultant general surgeon at Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, and also honorary medical officer to the city's National League Division One club, called for a change to uncontested scrums.  
Writing in the British Medical Journal, he said that over the 30 years he had been at Nottingham Rugby Club he had seen seven serious spinal cord injuries, six of which were related to the contested scrum.  
"The consequences of injury are so great that the continuing risk of injury cannot be accepted."  
Contested scrums were banned in Australian rugby league in 1996 and there have been no acute spinal cord injuries since, the BMJ article said.  
On the other side of the world, Australia coach John Connolly, formerly coach of Premiership side Bath, has welcomed the change. 
"The injuries are less than they used to be, but everyone is very conscious that one (paraplegic) is one too many," Connolly told the Sunday Mail. "Anything that helps the safety of the game is fine by me. 
"Most people won't notice the change. There will still be scrummaging and it will probably help speed up the game by cutting down on collapsed and reset scrums." 
The highest profile Australian victim of a scrum injury recently was prop Ben Darwin, whose career was ended by a neck injury in a collapsed scrum in the 2003 World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks in Sydney. 
However 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cup winning prop Dan Crowley has criticised the move. 
"That one ruling would be one of the most significant rule changes in the history of the game," he told the same newspaper. "The scrum is all about impact; it is all about winning the battle at the advantage line. 
"What is this, rugby league? If this goes through, goodbye Rodney Blake, goodbye Os du Randt. Why would you want a 130kg player? 
"You'd be better off putting a small, fast bloke like Phil Waugh into the front row and teaching him the right body position to stop him getting blown away. 
"It doesn't matter how big or powerful a front row is, if the other side gets its body position right you aren't going to dominate it from a standing start. Everything comes from the hit before the scrum." 
Recent refereeing disparities highlighted in the Anglo-Welsh Cup may also see further changes when it comes to the tackle area. 
In fact the RFU's injury audit, which was published last year, showed tackling was responsible for more injuries than scrummaging.  
"There is room for subjectivity in the laws of the game and we have a group looking at this issue," IRB communications officer, Greg Thomas told The Guardian. 
"We are centralising research into injuries and all unions will be contributing their data to allow us to see exactly why injuries are happening and put a prevention programme into place. A number of recommendations for law changes are being put to the council next month. They are being sent out to all the unions and it is too early to say what will be agreed."  

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