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By ARU Media Unit
In recent times, the role of the ‘specialist positional player’ has altered. We now see wingers who are the same size as yester-years front rowers, we now see scrum halves who are 180 centimetres tall, and we see flankers who are less than 180cms tall. Roles and player sizes have gone through a significant transition over recent years. The role of the scrum in all levels of rugby has also gone through a number of significant transitions and changes. No longer can the local rugby coach be selecting hi front row based on who is the biggest and strongest. Front rowers are now expected to run as fast as a flanker, have the ball handling skills of a Number 10 and in same recent examples, have the ability to cover open space and make effective tackles. There is then an expectation that the same player will scrummage effectively, lift and support line-out jumpers, and participate in the ongoing ruck and maul encounters.
During a recent Super 12 competition, one study showed that on average, there were approximately 18 stoppages per game requiring the formation of a scrum. From that, almost 30 scrums were packed, the anomaly in the statistics being caused by the number of scrum re-packs. Front rowers attack each formation of a scrum with a sense that there will be a successful uniting of the two packs and as such, the level of effort applied to the engagement is whole-hearted and aggressive.
All this use of energy can only result in the rapid onset of ongoing and significant fatigue in not only the front row but in all of the tight five. Once the natural ability of these players is reduced by the fatigue factor, opposition teams can exploit defensive weaknesses and threaten their opponent’s goal line. A critical factor in maintaining a team’s ability to win games can be directly related to the coach’s ability to reduce the ongoing levels of fatigue in the team’s tight five.
This discussion paper will address the role of the tight five and identify how good body shape and correct scrummaging structure can significantly reduce the fatigue caused to players by scrummaging.
So what is good body shape and why is it important?
The term ‘Body shape’ relates to a number of physical, technical and psychological techniques that put the player in a position that allows them to fully participate in their role as a scrummager whilst effectively conserving their energy. Effective body shape is about knowing the basic positioning of the shoulders, hips, knees and feet prior to and during the scrum engagement.
It is important for the development of rugby that coaches and players have a benchmark or set of standards to strive to achieve effective scrummaging through body shape. To simplify the process of identifying standards, I have chosen to break body shape down into stages that can be used dependant on the age, experience and ability of the player being coached. As players achieve the standards set for a particular level, their proficiency in scrummaging should increase. As that proficiency increases, the impact on the scrum as a unit will increase proportionately. A better, tighter, more efficient scrum equates to less required exertion of energy from the player.
Less energy used during scrummaging will increase the durability and efficiency of the player which in turn increases the overall performance of the player for the duration of the game.
Level 1 is the origin of the process and addresses the basics of building the scrum from scratch. Coaches need to be aware that before a player progresses to the next level, the player must be not only aware of the requirements of the level but also capable of implementing the requirements effectively. The basic requirements for every member of the scrum are as follows:-
The basic requirements for individual positions are as follows:-
To take effective Body Shape the hooker must at every scrum achieve these competencies;
Before commencing Level 3, players must be proficient in Levels 1 and 2.
Before commencing Level 4, players must be proficient in Levels 1, 2 and 3.
Rugby as a game is becoming faster, more dynamic and more demanding upon rugby players. Players are enhancing their game durability by controlling their dietary intake, by utilising stamina enhancing supplements, and by adhering to on-field rest and recovery techniques.
The scrum is perhaps one of the most physically demanding and energy sapping phases of the game of rugby union. Effective Body Shape can and will reduce the drain on player energy and increase the longevity of player stamina if correctly coached and utilised. Whilst Body Shape may be considered by some as playing a small role in the overall game, a fresher, faster and less fatigued forward pack will directly equate to an increase in a quality tight five involvement in the game.
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