The law governing the scrum put-in changed at the start of the 2017-18 season – we explain what's different

New scrum put-in rules in rugby explained

The law surrounding the put-in at the scrum in rugby has generated much debate in recent years, particularly the fact that crooked feeds – i.e. the ball not being delivered straight down the middle of the tunnel of the scrum by the scrum-half but angled towards their team – have not been penalised by referees at elite level.

Rugby World magazine’s letters inbox receives more emails about this topic than anything else! So it’s little surprise that World Rugby have introduced a law amendment surrounding the scrum put-in for the 2017-18 season.

Referee Pascal Gauzere penalised both Wales and Scotland for not putting the ball in straight in the opening game of the Six Nations while Nigel Owens penalised France for a crooked feed against Ireland as well, but what exactly is different this season? Here are the key differences with the new scrum put-in rules explained…

scrum put-in rules

Head to head: The scrum-half now puts the ball in slightly off-centre. Photo: Getty Images

The put-in 

  • The scrum-half must put the ball in straight to the scrum, but they are allowed to align their shoulder to the middle line of the scrum.
  • This means they are putting the ball in a shoulder’s width towards their own team’s side of the scrum.
  • So the ball has to be put in straight, but rather than being put in down the middle of the tunnel it is put in slightly towards the scrum-half’s own team.
  • The referee no longer signals when the scrum-half should put the ball in.
  • The aim is to promote a fair contest for possession while also giving an advantage to the team putting the ball into the scrum. In most cases the opposition will have infringed for that team to be awarded the put-in.

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The strike

  • A front-row player must strike the ball once it is put into the tunnel.
  • This is traditionally done by the hooker as they are in the best position to strike the ball but either prop is also permitted to do this.
  • This means the ball cannot be fed straight to the second row, as had previously been happening.
  • The aim is to promote a fair contest for possession.
  • If teams don’t strike the ball, the opposition will be awarded a free-kick.

Handling

  • The No 8 is allowed to pick up the ball from the second row.
  • Previously teams had to wait until the ball came through to the back row but the No 8 is now permitted to collect it from the second row.
  • The aim is to promote continuity and speed up play.