By Scottish Rugby
What goes on in the scrum? Home of the “dark arts” where the denizens of the front row have a knowledge all their own.
But now some light could be shed to a mystery on par with the Da Vinci code. Thanks to a hi-tech International Rugby Board funded, three-year Scrum Forces Project currently underway in Scotland.
How much is actually known about the impacts when the two teams clash after the referee gives the signal? This was the question the Game's worldwide governing body, the IRB, presented to researchers at Bath University in 2010.
In response a two-phase research programme began, entitled “Biomechanics of the Rugby Scrum”, with the aim of finding and gaining an understanding of how to maximise performance in the scrum and continue to minimise any injury risks.
The project uses subjects from across the globe from school level through the Women’s Game right up to fully fledged international competition, and now with the project into phase two (live scrummaging) four of Scotland’s top clubs are helping with the research.
RBS Premiership sides Gala, Melrose and Aberdeen Grammar and RBS National League outfit Hamilton will all undertake a one hour scrummaging session which will cover the varying engagement conditions, such as ‘crouch-touch-pause-engage’, ‘crouch, touch, set’ and stable engagement.
Throughout the session the front-row players will be fitted with sensors to measure 3D accelerations and impact pressures on them during the initial engagement and continued scrummaging. Researchers will also look at body alignment and set-up techniques before and during the scrum.
Scottish Rugby’s coaching development manager Jock Peggie said: “Player safety is vitally important to us as the governing body of rugby in Scotland, so we’re delighted to contribute to such an important research project and help the IRB achieve the highest degree of player safety, as well as making improvements to the game at all levels.
“The project is very much in-line with our ‘Are You Ready to Play Rugby?’ initiative and player welfare agenda so thank you to Gala, Aberdeen Grammar, Melrose and Hamilton for helping gather material and results imperative to the project.”
Aberdeen Grammar’s forwards coach Kev Wyness said: “We found the exercise really interesting and the players enjoyed trying out new variations for setting up the scrum.
“One variation reduced the impact of the engagement by 50 per cent and it was more like a shoving contest. The players really enjoyed that one.
“All in it has been really positive and we were pleased to be involved. Thank you to Scottish Rugby and the IRB for this research.”
John Jeffrey, IRB Council member from Scotland and a member of the IRB's Scrum Steering Group, said: “The scrum is integral to the shape and character of rugby. I’m delighted that Scottish Rugby is throwing its full support behind this critical project and the analysis from this programme will provide a comprehensive set of research and data that will shape a better understanding of the dynamic forces at work in the set scrum, identify key focus areas and shape player welfare policy, promoting the best possible techniques for playing, coaching and refereeing this unique area of the Game.”
In time the findings from this project may change the way the scrum is played throughout the Game of rugby successfully enhancing player safety and the efficiency of the scrum.