ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 28: Cameron Munster of the Storm feeds the scrum during the round 15 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm at Adelaide Oval on June 28, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Nothing attracts the derision of non-league fans more than the group hug we lovingly call the scrum.

Try to make the case that the mass-embrace of a dozen stationery men takes the forwards out of action and thus triggers open play and you get anywhere.

Explain that this curious ceremony is an important tradition and a spiritual link to the sport’s origins, and you will be lucky to earn more than a grunt.

I don’t care that the halfback now tosses the ball somewhere near the lock’s ankles while everyone stands statue-still. I never thought striking in scrums was a spectacle, and anything that avoids tedious Union-style scrum penalties is to be applauded.

My problem with scrums is the complete lack of imagination NRL sides show when presented with the single best opportunity for creative play from a standing start. Tries are scored directly off scrum wins about as often as Bunty Afoa has a haircut, and that needs to change. (The rate of tries, that is, not Bunty’s excellent do.)

Time and again at modern scrums the ball is moved one or two passes wide on the open side to an attacking player who falls into the arms of his opposite number. It would be great to see teams trying new tactics in order to ask genuine questions of the defending team. For example:

1. Kick off the scrum win. Place a halfback at lock, and as the ball comes out kick immediately in a pre-planned manner. If the scrum is in a team’s defensive half, kick the ball as far as possible downfield and have the fastest players chase it. If it is a scrum in attacking position, put through a grubber under the posts, or even kick laterally to a winger. If the scrum is inside the defensive 40, why not shoot for a 40-20?

2. Overload the blindside. Challenge the defending team to either number up against the blindside attackers – creating more space in the defensive line for attacking players lined up on the open side if the ball is sent that way – or risk facing a four-on-two on the short side if the defence chooses not to match the attacking formation.

3. Cluster backline players on the open side. Rather than stringing the backline out in conventional neatly-spaced fashion, have three players shoulder-to-shoulder at second receiver. Again, it challenges the defending team to either match this with their own players (creating more room elsewhere for other attacking backs) or risk having three attackers surging together looking to create a three-on-one.

4. Seek mismatches. The team second to the scrum has the opportunity to see the types of players packing in. Consider putting light players in the scrum and position bullocking forwards opposite smaller defenders in the ‘backline’. It’s not as if there is going to be any sort of scrum push!

5. Chip kick over the scrum itself. Have the player in lock position lob a chip designed to land in the space behind whee the opposing lock has bound in. In this set play the blindside centre and the half who fed the scrum sprint for the ball as soon as the kick is executed.

6. Kick to the blindside winger. The first receiver is passed the ball from the scrum base while standing on the open side, then kicks diagonally across the scrum to give his blindside winger a chance to compete in the air, hopefully against a bludging defender.

Would all of these tactics work? Would any? What would be an acceptable success rate?

Tries are hard to come by in the NRL. Commentators love to talk about ‘trick shots’ when what they are referring to are well-worked but conventional set plays.

Genuine ‘trick shots’, enterprising and creative strategies at the scrum might be a shortcut to a cheap try or two. At the very least, it would be great to watch.

8 COMMENTS

  1. No, we should keep them but make them competitive again. We should allow opposing teams to compete for the ball by pushing or reaching out with the legs. The player that throws in should be made to throw it into the centre of the scrum thereby creating a fair go for both sides.

  2. Why should both teams have a fair go? If a team has knocked the ball on the other team should get the advantage.

  3. Fantastic points, and well argued. Need more of this on ZT
    Need more competitions in the ruck. Make them earn their money. Scrums have gone to buggery.

  4. Do it properly like the rugby where 60% of game time is packing scrums and forming lineouts.
    That way we can have fat lazy forwards as well that only need to move for a total of 15 minutes game time.

  5. No we don’t want it like that other game, but making it more competitive would add spice. Right now its boring. You know who will come up with it and it serves little purpose. I take the point about little advantage for the knock on and that should be considered but as it is, you might as well just hand the ball over.

  6. A scrum is a ancient concept and is a completely stupid thing we still do in the game of rugby league. it’s only purpose now is the give forwards about a minute break and talk trash.

    Obviously the scrum should just change to a tap and go, this would reduce the time forwards have to rest and would allow the game to open up later on in games. No scrum, Decreased interchange to 6 and captains Challenge only for try’s would be the best way for the game to flow aswell as bringing the tired element people seem so hung up on. A captains challenge not only stops a vast majority of the crying by the players but also puts the decision on the players for when they actually have a case to overrule a try or no try.

    As to why they don’t do anything at scrums. The reason is that it doesn’t make sense to, when teams actually do try set peices from scrum 99% of the time it backfires embarrassingly. Thing like kicking from scrum are nothing short of coach killers doesn’t matter even if you had Addo-Carr in your team.

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