Wed, May 09, 2007 - Page 18 News List

IRB happy with new scrummage laws

AFP , PARIS

The retirement of rugby union hookers Steve Thompson and Brendan Cannon on medical advice has highlighted the ongoing safety concern over front-row forwards.

But the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board (IRB), is confident that new scrummaging laws will go some way to curtailing chronic neck injuries.

Thompson, 28, and Cannon, 34, faced each other in the 2003 World Cup final that Australia lost 20-17 to England and the latter's retirement now means that all the Australian front-row from their semi-final win against New Zealand have left the game with neck or spinal injuries.

Ben Darwin suffered a prolapsed disc after he lost feeling in his neck in a collapsed scrum, while Bill Young suffered chronic neck injuries with numbness in his left arm and hand which still returns on occasion.

Greg Thomas, head of communications for the IRB, said the new rules concerning scrummaging had been implemented in a bid to cut down on injuries.

"Rugby is a very physical game: there is a risk of injury in every aspect of the game and the scrum is obviously one area," Thomas said.

The new scrum regulations had been introduced, Thomas said, "as purely a safety issue."

"The front rows have been brought closer together to minimize impact. Our research showed that the `hit' was starting to cause long-term injuries and possible chronic injuries," he added.

Thomas argued that the number of reset scrums had not increased and "in some competitions it has gone down dramatically ... we are continuing to monitor the situation."

The new scrum laws employ a "crouch, touch, pause, engage" philosophy which sees the two opposing front rows standing closer to each other and the props within touching distance.

They are designed to lessen the full-frontal impact, with the goal of fewer collapsed scrums and resets but the truth remains that you still have up to 2,000kg worth of packs smashing into each other.

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