Call to ban the scrum

OFFICIALS from leading rugby clubs in the area are against proposals to ban contested scrums in competitive matches.

OFFICIALS from leading rugby clubs in the area are against proposals to ban contested scrums in competitive matches.

James Bourke, a leading doctor, has called for the ban because of the risk of causing serious spinal injuries.

Bourke, a surgeon at Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, is also honorary medical officer to the city's National League Division One club.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, he said that over the 30 years he had been at Nottingham Rugby Club he had seen seven serious spinal injuries, six of which were related to the contested scrum.


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He said: “The incidents involving the two young players who are now wheelchair-bound occurred recently in my experience in rugby union and have caused me to change my opinion on contested scrums.”

Andy Mayers, chairman of Sudbury RFC and a former player, feels that players understand and appreciate the risks involved with scrums. He said: “Being a front-row forward, I believe it would take away a big part of the game.

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“If you're not strong enough and you don't know what you're doing, obviously there is a chance that you could get hurt.

“We've had lads who are old enough to play in the front row but we have held them back until the end of the season, just to make sure.

“We all go into the game knowing the risks and I believe that referees have a big role to play in the safety of the players.”

Andrew Sarek, chairman of community rugby in the Eastern Counties, believes that scrums pose less of a risk than some other contact sports.

He said: “Scrums are less of a risk than a lot of sports but it is important that they are taught in a safe manner. We ensure that players are introduced to scrums from a young age but they cannot play competitively in the front row until they are 18.”

Sarek, who is also director of rugby at Colchester RFC, added: “It's shoulder to shoulder between eight people, of course there are injuries, just as there are in any sport.”

A recent study on Australian rugby union found that, between 1997 and 2002, 39% of injured players became permanently dependent on a wheelchair.

The study concluded that the laws of scrum engagement in rugby union and the amount of insurance cover for injured players are grossly inadequate.

Bourke said rugby union should follow the example of rugby league in Australia and ban contested scrums. He added: “Rugby union outlawed the 'flying wedge' and the 'cavalry charge' as they are potentially dangerous. It should now also outlaw the contested scrum.”

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