View Full Version : BCM's Scrum Notes

03-05-10, 18:05
Before you all roll your eyes, I was asked to do this by another bored member. The things i assert are, from my experience, those which will minimise trouble at the scrum; they will not stop all collapses because they can occur accidentally and some props cannot resist the urge to cheat. Nevertheless, I do believe that if you can get these established you will have a much easier afternoon:-

1. Before the game talk to the scrum half and the front row whilst the team is in the changing room. This is so that their peers know what they have been told and they cannot claim afterwards that you did not tell them something. It also helps you on the field because if they give away a number of penalties or free kicks it is highly likely that someone will say "He told you about this before the game - why don;t you listen"

2. I would tell them that whatever has happened previously in this game the ball is going to go in straight and by that I mean down the middle line which is below where the shoulders meet, not anywhere else. Furthermore, if this doesn't happen I will yellow card without hesitation.

3. To the front rows I would say that I will make a long mark where the engagement has to take place and they should use it because from the mark I will judging whether they or the opposition have pushed over it before the ball is put in.

4. Regarding the CTPE I would tell them that they must listen to the timing and do the phases when called. I would also explain that I have to check certain things are right on each stage and I have to have time to do this so the call will not be rushed, but I would try and make the calls without long pauses.

5. I would tell them that on the engagement I will not allow them to drive on impact and they will not be allowed to drive until the ball is fed by the scrum half.

6. The final point I would make is that the law states binding is on the other props shirt and that I wanted long binds. If I catch them binding on the arm they will be penalised, even if the scrum does not collapse.

Thereafter all that remains is to carry out what you say and without exception. I would make sure that I gave the explanation of any sanction sufficiently loudly for most of the miscreant's team to hear because they will help as set out at the beginning of this post. I would also remind them that I told them about whatever was the offence before the game. Finally, if a player continues to offend - one warning to him in front of his captain then yellow card. If he won't play ball when he comes back on - one warning to captain that next time it is red and if he does it is red and he is off.

I do not believe that you will ever need to get anywhere near a red and hopefully few yellows, but you have to carry out a threat or it is meaningless. I also think that this helps your authority generally.

Regarding the number of times you have to blow the whistle. I don't care if it is all the time early on because they cannot claim I did not explicitly tell them beforehand and it is not my fauilt if they are ****ing thick. It won't go on all game because players will be in the bin and they can and do adapt very quickly when they want to. If they don't - that is not my fault.

03-05-10, 23:05
BCM - how's the reffing going? You been back out yet?

The points you make are mostly valid, and mostly what are done by most refs and the lower levels. Although application isn't always that successful. Your points do however seem to be written without that knowledge, or without the experience of how to manage the game as a ref.

They are sadly over simplified. We need to manage the game - and that also means being consistent from phase to phase - we can't be over pedantic on one area and not in others for example.

This is why I hope you do continue to ref - I want to hear your views on how to manage the scrum etc not only from a player and commentators view, but also from a refs view point. And how that fits into managing the game.

Please don't take this post the wrong way - I do appreciate you sharing your views. It is just they have a tendency to come across like a newbie ref (all be it with vastly more playing experience!). Once you have the experience as a ref I think you will see what this means.

Take as an example - the binding issue - say both props fail to bind properly - who to penalise? Both sides push early and the scrum wheels a bit, or isn't stable - who to penalise? Things aren't black and white, or that simple.

This where i would like to hear you experience - when you have the grey areas, or both sides infringing - how to manage the situation/penalise etc.

Sorry but you cannot expect me in a post requested to cover how i thought the scrum should be refereed to cover all eventualities. For God's sake I am capable of distinguishing between points.

I have stepped out onto the field again and did the warm-up game before the London Scottish final home game - only 40 mins but just about got through although my calf cramped again. I intend to referee this month and continue to do so next season frequently.

Regarding the mark and one pack going over it. As far as I am aware under the laws, the only responsibility a pack has is to engage on that mark and not do anything to move away from it. It does not have a responsibility to engage as hard as the other pack and certainly not to match any illegal early push - which is what is actually meant when referees say 'take the hit'.

It is actually almost impossible for a whole pack to walk backwards and make it look natural, but as far as I am aware a pack does not have any responsibility to resist an early and illegal shove that comes before the ball leaves the scrum half's hands and which moves it backwards.

What many seem to fail to realise is that it is perfectly possible to engage with considerable force and not advance over the mark; even if the other pack engages meekly. You might get a six inches or a foot of movement forward, and I stress might, but this would be distinguishable from the early push which almost always starts and continues until the whistle or collapse or the scrum running all over the place.

Therefore I equate a pack going over the mark by anything more as an early hit and most of all from a referees point of view, if you have made a clear mark you can simply point to it and the fact that the pack you are penalising is over the mark and they will have to adjust the force with which they hit. If that means they cannot hit and drive early so much the better, however much they complain and do not like it. Again, if anybody can point to me where in the laws there is a responsibility for any pack to engage in a certain manner, other than obeying the CTPE, then I will reconsider this.

Of course I wouldn't card a SH for a first offence of feeding and probably not a second, but the warning would be to impress upon the SH that I meant what I said about the feed and that I wouldn't like too many referees ignore it or only look at it for the first couple of scrums.

In the game I refer to I gave two feeding FKs and one pushing early. I had to reset one scrum which didn't go on the CTPE and apart from that no collapses and no complaints.

I will tell you why I can be pedantic at this area and not others - materiality; I take the view that scrums can be dangerous (I have visited too many quadraplegic and tetraplegic cases caused by scrums) and anything that makes them unstable is not to be tolerated. From other threads you will know my argument on causation and the crooked feed and early push and nobody has been able to contradict it or offer a more cogent explanation for present problems in the scrum. Those who argue that a crooked feed cannot be dangerous are being wilfully blind in my opinion, the things that flow from such feeds are there for all to see. If that doesn't go down well on any assessment I have then so what - I will know that I did all I could to ensure the scrums were as safe as they could be in an activity with inherent danger. And on top of all that, I know very well that front rows can scrummage within the laws if they want to or are encouraged to do so. If they won't then they won't be on the pitch - simple.

A hooker stepping marginally onto the field of play when throwing and similar does not have the same potential for harm and can be treated differently.

06-05-10, 00:05
This is also my opinion aswell. I dont think I said anything to give an otherwise impression. I certainly didnt mean it. I thought I suggest that I would escalate from a FK to a PK to Cards as needs be. In fact I outline that in P#8 and also in this thread (http://rugbyrefs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7915&highlight=incorrect+feed) where I asked the forum what they thought of my decision to award a PK instead of a yellow card for multiple crooked feeding offences.

Brian, can I just ask do you give the breakdown, lineout, player management, fitness the same amount of thought that you do with scrums. I always have this feeling that you are refereeing to right the wrongs of the modern scrum (itself not a criticism indeed Mark Lawrence says the reason he became a referee was dissatisfaction with how refereeing was done when he was younger). Maybe its just because its a topic you are knowledgeable on and comment a lot on but I worry that you see your role in refereeing as being there to oversee scrums rather than facilitate 80 minute games of rugby.

As I said maybe Im wrong and the fact that you talk so much about the scrum that it has just led me to associate Brian Moore and Scrum. I hope you wont be offended by that. Constructive criticism and debate are not the the same as disrespect :swet:


i can see why it might come across as a lop-sided crusade and obsession with scrums but they are uniquely difficult to manage and are the only piece of play where you are involved, the rest players get on with it until you stop them. Also, as you are involved your neck is on the line legally and that is significant, so I want to make sure at least the CTPE is understood and on my terms.

The only other instruction I would give is at the breakdowns - I would say that I wanted the tackler to release both man AND ball immediately and **** off. I reason that if this does happen then anything else is easier to spot and may not happen anyway because the ball can be played or and if contested you can see holding on. I also stress that I will expect the same from both sides.

After that I can't see any real reason for instruction - they know the laws and how they approach LOs etc is up tot hem provided they don't transgress - additionally the longer you go on the less they listen and where do you stop?

I think that if you get the scrums reasonably right and the breakdowns the same you go a long way to having a good afternoon.

With regard to the marginal things that occur in the front row, I could produce what I consider to be a useful guide to who is more likely to be at fault when scrums collapse, wheel etc, but this is all dependent on certain things being equal - like all the laws being enforced as fully as possible. If you think it is helpful I will have a go at it. anything I post can be disseminated to anyone; including Paddy O'Brien!

06-05-10, 14:05

I lot of what you say makes sense now. Whereas before, I dismissed your straight-feed theory as somewhat crackpot, I am beginning to see that insisting on it will give both teams a fair shot at a contest in the scrums, and ultimately will help to keep scrums stable. Its not 100% of the answer, but it is a significant part of it.

However, I cannot believe the number of elite referees that are STILL missing another significant part of the answer, by allowing props to bind on their opponents' arms and sleeves. IMO, they (the referees) are simply making a rod for their own backs by doing this.

Insisting on a long bind onto the opposing prop's back makes it very difficult for props to engage in the type of disruptive shenanigans that we see going on in front rows. What is more, a scrum with long binding front rows is naturally stable. The fact that the props are unable to cock their elbows helps to prevent them bringing any sideways or vertical force onto their opponent.

The upshot of this is that not only are collapsing, lifting, driving up, twisting and boring-in much more difficult to do, any attempts to do so become much more difficult to hide from the referee.

When I try explaining the dynamics of this to people who have never played in the front row, they often have difficulty in understanding or believing that a bent arm is much stronger than a straight arm. The simple exercise of doing normal press-ups then doing straight-arm press-ups usually settles the matter.


i have no idea what a straight arm press up is - can you enlighten me please.

You are correct about binding. the reason so many tightheads don't want to do this is that it makes them stay square and they then have to be very strong to resist a shove, they are in a naturally disadvantageous position because they have weight coming from both shoulders.

Also, am I being simple or am I right that this is very easy to spot?

OK, the following is my rough guide to guessing (because we all do , it is just that some of us do it with a bit more knowledge - only the two props know which one was responsible and they will both lie when you ask them anyway)which I stress is not absolute.

When reading the following please bear in mind a few points -

1. These rely on you ensuring that there is no pushing until the ball is fed and that it is fed along the middle line.

2. The reason for the above is, as I have said before, is that if you force the SH to feed the ball straight the hooker has to put his weight on the non-striking foot, dive forward when he sweeps his leg and complete the hook in a roughly round movement. He cannot do this or will not if the scrum is moving. Therefore, it is safe to assume that he and his pack will, at least before the ball is fed,.k want a stationary scrum. In fact, unless they go for an eight man shove they will want it still until the ball leaves the scrum; with the possible exception of wheeling slightly one way or the other to move the defending flankers away from the pass or run.

3. If a scrum collapses on the put-in side before the ball is put in I look to see if either prop has lost his bind. This is not always the cause of a collapse but more often than not it is done when under pressure. If the other prop is legally bound I would ping the one losing his bind. Even if you are not right at least you can point to some offence and the prop knows he should have been bound and cannot argue. You will get more right than wrong.

4. If the scrum has not moved much and by this I mean a yard or so look at the position of the two props on the floor. If the TH is turned on and on his side it is because he was twisting in before the collapse and it is likely to be his fault. Again you can point to his position and he cannot really argue.

It is possible for the LH to have gone down but as the TH was not in a legal position - IE he was twisting or boring in, then you can rightly say that the LH should not be expected to hang on for grim death when being twisted illegally and even if he does collapse it you can say that he wouldn't have had to do any of this if the TH was square. Almost always when this happens the TH as shifted his bind to the arm, sleeve or under the armpit. He would not end up in this position if he were bound on the shirt with a long bind.

Also bear in mind - if the put-in side is not being mullered, what have they to gain from collapsing a stationary scrum before the put-in?

5. If the props go down square it is more likely to be the LH's fault. There is no reason for a TH who is not going backwards to collapse chest first as he is not being shoved. This is where what is now call 'hinging' comes in - where the LH bends from the waist and sends the TH down. This is usually evidenced by the bend coming from the waist and not involving much leg bend.

6. If the scrum goes down on the far side before the ball is fed it is likely to be the put-in sides TH. The LH on that side would be either seeking to keep it still for his hooker to strike against the head or pressuring the TH in advance of a shove. A collapse before the ball is in is not any real advantage to him whereas it is for the TH if he knows that the pressure is likely to send him backwards when the shove comes on - After the feed note! If you go round the other side you can see this more clearly. And let us just clear up one thing - it is perfectly possible to see how straight the feed is from this side - if anything it is easier because you don't have the scrum half to look over. I would, if anything stand on the far side more often than not as you have a better view of the tunnel and are nearer the breakdown, if as is usual the ball is passed the normal; way. The only problem is a number eight pick up but you can avoid this by standing 5 -7 yards away as he is likely to drive reasonably close so that he is not an easy tackle line. And yes, you can still easily see what is going on with binds, the feed etc.

6. If a scrum is moving when it collapses - bear this in mind - of what advantage is it to the advancing pack to take it down? Ignore this rubbish about double bluffs and trying to con penalties; it rarely happens and if they do con you then good for them.

The reason you can be reasonably sure about this is that it is not in a front rowers psyche to collapse when he is in the dominant position. This is why players like playing in the front row. Shoving your opposite number is the equivalent of side-stepping for a back only much more satisfying for entirely justifiable macho reasons.

furthermore, it is dangerous to collapse when you are advancing for several reasons. Unlike when the retreating prop collapses you cannot be sure your back 5 will stop pushing. They may not be able to recognise immediately that you have gone down. If they keep pushing your neck can get bent or extended, neither of which are much fun. Many times when this happened to me I would be be screaming so that the back five could see we were on the floor and stop pushing.

For the retreating prop - OK he might get driven over but getting trodden on might be painful; it is not the same as above.

Also, when this happens see which prop ends up in the more comfortable position. If the retreating prop has both feet back and lands square on that is good sign he has collapsed because he as been able to end up in a decent position (all relative I know).

7. A scrum cannot wheel quickly without being pulled illegally one way or the other. The natural way of achieving a wheel - where on prop stays still and the other drives means that it cannot be done quickly unless there is such an imbalance that there is a complete mismatch in the two front rows - in which case you have to ask why are they wheeling rather than simply shoving their opponents off the ball?

Any quick wheel penalise the non-put-in side even if it happens after the feed. A side hooking the ball may want a slight wheel to put the other back row further from the tackle area, but they would not do this before the ball is controlled by the number eight because if they do whilst the ball is making its way there, there is every possibility that one of dullard and clumsy 2nd rows will kick it through. Also the number eight is not in a position to pick it up and do the back row move whilst it is not at his feet or very close.

Similarly they would not wheel the scrum quickly even if the ball is at their number eights feet because it makes it much harder to control the pick up if the second rows feet are tap-dancing about.

8. Scrums that wheel slowly are not usually dangerous and provided they do not collapse I think you just play on making sure the back rows are legally bound etc.

Also make sure you are consistent with how far you allow the scrum to wheel before a reset - layers get really annoyed if the other side is given more time.

Finally, one thing with the flankers bind. Watch out for which player he is binding on. He may stay should and upper arm engaged but simply move up from his prop to their prop and this number eights do the same going from their second row o their prop. surprisingly the Kiwis are masters at this.

9. Lifting - one of the reasons I have a poor opinion of BL is that he was unable to understand that it is not possible for a prop to stand up and by doing so suspend hi9himself in mid-air, three feet off the ground. **** me, you don't have to be a prop to get this, trying standing up and getting to where Phil Vickery found himself against the so-called Beast. you might do it if you're David Blaine but not otherwise.

Very dangerous - hyper extension if still bound in dangerous coming down if not. in the air - NEVER the liftee's fault. It is technically possible for a retreating second row to stop the drive by diving under his front row and shooting them up, but this is so cynical and difficult it might occur once in whatever.

Finally with standing up - you are allowed to ping the first player you see pop-up but I think that this is not right. Standing up dissipates a drive because the pressure goes up not back. If a pack is retreating it can do this to stop it; if you are going forward you do not want to stand up because you cannot drive anymore. You could posit that the player must have not been driving straight but that may not be the case and given that he has weakened his position i don' think you should ping - you should restart if necessary. I would carry on because the player is not in any danger and the scrum is likely to have become static because of his standing.

sorry there is one further point. Some props try to lift their opponent's leg during a drive. If I saw this I would be considering a YC straight away. This is highly dangerous and the prop doing it knows it; it cannot be accidental and i would at least leave the player in doubt about how lucky he was not getting carded.

As I said this cannot be absolute and you will be wrong - but not mess than you are right and the useful thing is that even if you are wrong you can point to something that could have been pinged and your assessor may not know nor will the penalised player's team know - is this too cynical?

06-05-10, 14:05
Can i just make another observation about Nigel Owen's refereeing of the scrum in the Toulouse v Leinster game.

He rightly stopped the packs and Leinster in particular driving before the feed. This is why they didn't;t run around ll day (see I told you it worked). However, on every Toulouse feed he allowed them to dip and start the drive just before the feed, they then simply walked over the ball .Servat never actually struck the ball properly.

They were very good with their timing and you could say so what it if it is fractionally early.

you can say this because look at it from a Leinster or non-put-in point of view. you have rightly been stopped from driving before the feed. However, what you face if the referee allows what NO did is the fact that your opposing pack, which knows when the drive will come because they call and control it, are always moving forward when the feed occurs. you have to be very strong to be able to absorb and reverse this sort of drive.

IMHO NO should have insisted on absolute stillness to be fair to both packs. Also, as I have said before, if a hooker does not use a sweeping motion to hook the ball it has either been fed or he must have been advancing - he cannot do this with a static scrum and a properly straight feed.

06-05-10, 15:05
BCM - all excellent information.

You do ask one question:

I see this said a lot, on TV and on the touchline.

My understanding is that a prop may elect to go down, even on his side's put in - even on a 5m attacking scrum, if he has stuffed up the hit and is uncomfortable and feels vulnerable to being shoved back. Rather than risk this (and maybe therefore especially on 5m scrum) he simply lays down, hoping for a reset, and a chance to get it right - or, if lucky, a ref who thinks - why would he do that, must have been t'other fellah - and pings accordingly?

Is this a reasonable thing to suspect as a possibility and to consider, or in your view would it simply not work like that?

This is an example that is often put to me - there is no definitive answer to this but you should consider the following:

1. If you do not allow pushing from either side before the ball is fed you get a lot less buggering about with binding. The present trend for going down at top level is a direct result of the elite referees wrongly allowing shoving straight after the engagement. I have no idea why they chose to allow this, other than thinking they know best and not understanding the consequences but what that does is make getting into the best position you can as early as you can. That is why you see the frantic grabbing and wrestling or delays to get the last bind.

If you don't allow a shove the props have time readjust and even re-bind before it makes a real difference and hence you get less buggering about.

This is also being made worse by the elite referees wrongly telling the scrum halves to put the ball immediately after the engagement. They presumably are doing this thinking that the longer the scrum goes on the more can go wrong. What they actually do by doing this is concertina all the elements of the scrum so that props and hookers have to get in the best position as fast as they can and whilst you want them to do this reasonably quickly anyway it is stupid to ask them to do it almost as soon as they have engaged.

In any event the law does not say the ball has to be pout-in like this it says it must be put in without delay as soon as the scrum is stable and square. The elite referees all know the laws and are experienced I can only therefore consider that they are being willful when they pursue a strategy like this; it absolutely clear that what they are doing will hinder the already unacceptable situation and yet they propose it; discuss it and carry it out - I am genuinely aghast at how these things come to be formulated in the brains of experienced officials - absolutely aghast.

So no early pushing less important to get a good bind, more time to readjust and fewer problems.

When it comes to the fear of getting shoved nd so it is difficult if a LH is going down before the feed. What I would say is that if a TH is sufficiently good to exert sufficient pressure for the LH to fear this, then he is probably good enough not to allow the scrum to go down.

This is point is one that i forgot when penning the above. If a pack is well on top it is able to virtually dicatate how a scrum goes. It can choose not to hit over the mark; can not shove early; can keep the front row off the ground and still rag its opponents.

Another of the results of what the elite referees have done is that weaker packs not get hammered all day long and only because of brute force.

Consider this - a put-in side has an inherent weakness anyway when scrums are refereed properly because their hooker has to get into a striking stance which means he is not square and any push he exerts is lessened because of this. It gets worse when he has to take weight off his striking leg and hook the ball. For the time he is performing the hook he can transmit little or no shove at all.

Thus, the non out-in pack has 8 against 7 and 1/2 for the beginning and 8 against 7 during the strike. Only when the hooker has got the ball back can he try and readjust into a proper pushing position and if a shove is well timed he never gets to that position.

However, there used to be a catchphrase - 'scrums are only 5 seconds long' When the shove from a superior pack wasn't allowed immediately the other pack could get ready - engage, lock out for a few seconds and the ball would struck into channel one and away. After that it didnt matter whether the rest of the pack got shoved back. With proper technique and concentration even weaker packs could compete, although it was very hard work. What we have at the moment is one pack that can simply roll over the other because if uses it advantage and the momentum of the engagement.

The obvious time to look out for the rare double bluff is near the end of a game etc.

Oh and I forgot - keep in mind an overall picture of how the scrums are going. Why is it that pack A can keep steady on their ball and not other times? Why is a scrum wheeling all the time until one pack wants a straight one and miraculously manages to achieve this?

02-06-10, 14:06
All - I found this thread and tips by BCM666 one of the most useful threads of the year. So that I could have it handy to remind myself of them I'd taken the liberty to summarise/cut and paste it all into a word document (though removing any superflous or duplicate bits).

I created this document before this summary thread was created - but was just doing it for myself...however thought maybe some of you might also want a copy to keep handy.

I hope I have done it justice and apologise to BCM666 if I've hashed it..also I hope the appropriate credit references were made.


02-06-10, 14:06
well done, menace - very useful. I will email a copy to my Society training advisor with a request to consider dissemination.

02-06-10, 15:06
Cheers menace. A useful tool !:clap:

02-06-10, 15:06
Sadly though my account does not have sufficient access rights to enable me to view the file.

02-06-10, 16:06
All - I found this thread and tips by BCM666 one of the most useful threads of the year. So that I could have it handy to remind myself of them I'd taken the liberty to summarise/cut and paste it all into a word document (though removing any superflous or duplicate bits).

Menace, may I assume that Brian's "disseminate freely" clause is transitive? I would like to make a Spanish translation of your excellent summary. Thanks!

02-06-10, 16:06
Good stuff re the breif Brian- i would just say try and make points2 to 6 short and snappy. With you talking they will listen but would be apt to drift off it it was me or others. Also try to avoid i WILL penalise/yc without hesitation stuff- leave yourself an out e.g. liable to yc/pk. Otherwise they will be expecting action when you don't really want to take it e.g. genuine accident/inexperience/materiality -i.e.when better to manage/warn. (n.b. i am not advocating copping out when thay are clearly cheating)

03-06-10, 02:06
Thanks Menace. Great document you put together there.

03-06-10, 06:06
Menace, may I assume that Brian's "disseminate freely" clause is transitive? I would like to make a Spanish translation of your excellent summary. Thanks!

Hi enrigue - I can't speak for Brian/BCM666..but I guess if you apply some level of credit to Brian words, as I have in my document, he doesn't seem to be the guy that would object? you may want to private message him if you have any concerns.

03-06-10, 06:06
Sadly though my account does not have sufficient access rights to enable me to view the file.

I will PM it to you tonight when I get onto my PC at home (assuming you have swicthed that option on in your profile).

03-06-10, 06:06
Good stuff re the breif Brian- i would just say try and make points2 to 6 short and snappy. With you talking they will listen but would be apt to drift off it it was me or others. Also try to avoid i WILL penalise/yc without hesitation stuff- leave yourself an out e.g. liable to yc/pk. Otherwise they will be expecting action when you don't really want to take it e.g. genuine accident/inexperience/materiality -i.e.when better to manage/warn. (n.b. i am not advocating copping out when thay are clearly cheating)

I should point out that the summary document I produced - is Brian's/BCM666 words verbatim - warts and all..spelling/typo's ..the lot.

03-06-10, 09:06
Cheers Brian (Scurring off to check I have turned the option on in profile...)

03-06-10, 12:06
Fantastic asset well done :clap:

03-06-10, 13:06
For the record, I had copied all of Brian's posts on here as one document, then kept deleting any other posters. I should simply have locked the thread and made it a Sticky in the Scrum Forum.

However, I see value in taking Menace's document and uploading it to the Game Management Section.

Robbie, does this sound good? Once this is done, we can lock this thread.

03-06-10, 15:06
Yes I notced that Bryan - and thought the word document would make it easier to print and have at the bedside for nightly/weekly review before a game. Apologies for being responsible for continuing your summary thread beyond its intent. Happy for you to move the document to a more appropriate place and delete the supplementary posts.

04-06-10, 04:06
Nah, we'll let Robbie sort it out and keep the thread as a sticky. Thanks for all your selflessness in helping out!