NPC side works on new rules to stop collapses

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2013

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Scrum coach Michael Collins expects the new engagement laws to significantly decrease the number of resets each game.

The latest scrum engagement law trials will be used when the National Provincial Championship kicks off next month, while they will also be introduced in the Rugby Championship.

In a new take on the "crouch, touch, set" sequence, props will now have to bind on to their opponents before the referee orders the engagement.

Once the scrum has settled, the referee will order the ball in before the sides can push.

The International Rugby Board hopes the trial will reduce scrum collapses and provide a far more stable platform.

Collins, who has been used as the Taranaki scrum coach for several seasons, as well as being used by Super Rugby franchises, agrees, saying the changes will radically change the set piece.

"It sounds simple but there will be a whole lot of different elements to the scrum," he said.

Although a large number of Taranaki's expected NPC squad are away with their Super Rugby franchises, Collins has been working on the new laws with an enlarged squad from club rugby, including props Shane Cleaver, Carl Carmichael, Sione Lea and Ryan Cocker.

"There are a few real subtle changes in feet positioning, especially for the second row and back row. I guess the main thing is the timing on the hit and getting down into a pushing position without actually pushing. Everything has changed a fair bit."

Because the props have to adopt a working bind, the front rows are also pushed together a lot closer than now.

"During training, we haven't had any collapses," Collins said. "After the ball goes in, there is a massive amount of weight that goes through the scrum. It might look a bit tidier but there is still a real contest there."

Collins thought the key thing was getting the forward pack as ready as they could to push.

The changes would be advantageous for the game.

"Some people are worried that it's going to take the contest out of it, but what we've found is you still have the contest, and there is still going to be some power scrummaging, it's just not going to be on the hit."

He also thought referees would have a far easier job policing the scrum if they were strict on the style of bind players adopted.

"You tend to find a lot of collapsed scrums now happen before the ball comes in.

"I think it will aid the referees and I think it will be safer.

"I don't have the stats in front of me but I'd imagine quite a lot of injuries come from the engage. There is still going to be some sting in that hit but by closing that gap up, they will take away the uncertainty and it's going to be great, especially at the lower levels."

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