The scrum is one of the most complex areas of rugby, and as such many things can go wrong. It is a difficult area to train and it takes years to perfect. The scrum is a vital cog in any teams attacking and defensive capabilities. Having a weak scrum puts the entire team on the back foot and demoralises the forwards as well as the backline.

There are a few schools of thought regarding the set up, binding, body shapes and body angles. What it seems to be is that there is no 100% perfect way to scrum. The Argentinians for example have the ‘Bajada’ scrum where all the pushing power goes through the hooker, whereas the French prefer using their props to dominate their opposition. Here in South Africa we tend to rely on our big players to bully the opposition by dominating the hit and using our superior weight advantage. We tend to neglect the art of scrumming here which is a huge shame whereas the Northern Hemisphere teams take it very seriously. Argentina and France are the two countries that are renowned for their scrumming, they spend a long time developing their front rows. If you aim to become a good front and second row player then you MUST spend a lot of your time practicing the scrumming basics.

The Basics

How to scrum video tutorials

How to scrum basics

*The scrum is an area where the most catastrophic injuries occur, BUT if you practice the basics and strengthen the correct areas you will find that the scrum can be very safe .


1) Hips below shoulders

2) Spines in line (all players spines in the same line)

3) Head straight, not looking up

4) Straight back! Very NB!

5) Secure binding. Being loose can be dangerous

Here is an extremely well presented note on scrumming from Jim Greenwood, it explains the angles and pushing power. I will go into more depth further on about the angles of the body for optimal pushing power.

Scrum basics

Body Angles

This is an area of the scrum where there are various schools of thought. I will show you three main angles that are thought of to produce the best pushing power.

The first is the 90-90 angle. This is the body angle advocated by the Argentinians in the Bajada scrum.

The thought is that the hips and knee should be at 90 degrees to produce the best pushing power.

Demonstrated below is a representation of the body at 90-90

Scrum basics

The second is the 90-110/120 angle.

Here the hip stays at 90 degrees but the knees extend to 110-120 degrees, this is thought that because the body is leaning more forward the legs can produce more power.

Scrum basics2

Thirdly there’s the 120-120 angle, where the hips and knees are at 120 degrees. This some say is the most powerful pushing position.

Front row basics

Prop Basics:

3 Types of binding:

1)      Short (Under armpit)

2)      Medium (Arm slightly bent, in middle of body)

3)      Long (Arm straight extended as far as possible)


Arms must be locked in a 90 degree shape from your shoulder

Neck must be tensed up so that the shoulders and arm do not move easily

There should be two arches in your back before you engage…

1) In your lower back, thrust your hips backwards to achieve this, and

2) In your upper back, so squeeze your shoulder blades together as tight as possible (you must practice this!)

You should be on the balls of your feet, with your toes acting like they are gripping sand.

Don’t go down too early as the tension in the knees (power) dissipates after 4 seconds, so rather get into crouch position last, build the power and tension and then be dominant in the hit

Scrumming Basics:Scrumming1



Which one do you think will exert more power going forward?

Which one do you think will exert more power going forward?


Front row engagement

Front Row Binding

Prop Engagement

Prop and Lock Engagement

Front Row Engagement

Front row tips

Tighthead (T/H)


Laws: 20.3 (d) Binding by tight-head props:

A tight-head prop must bind on the opposing loose-head prop by placing the right arm outside the left upper arm of the opposing loose-head prop.

The tight-head prop must grip the loose-head prop’s jersey with the right hand only on the back or side.

The tight-head prop must not grip the chest, arm, sleeve or collar of the opposition loose-head prop.


1) He must try to push the opposition loosehead down as much as possible so that his hooker cannot see the ball and it becomes very difficult for him to hook

2) Get the left shoulder out – with the binding over your loose-head’s arm, otherwise you may become twisted if you don’t

3) If the tight-head wants to stop the wheel then they push their left shoulder back behind his hooker, creating a smaller gap for the opposition hooker to aim at. It keeps the loose-head out of the game

4) The worst position to do on engage is to go UPWARDS or INWARDS

5) T/H should be scrumming on L/H’s head not chest!

6) 3/4 of your chest should be over your toes in the crouch position

Loosehead (L/H)



20.3 (c) Binding by loose-head props

A loose-head prop must bind on the opposing tight-head prop by placing the left arm inside the right arm of the tight-head and gripping the tight-head prop’s jersey on the back or side

The loose-head prop must not grip the chest, arm, sleeve or collar of the opposition tight-head prop.

The loose-head prop must not exert any downward pressure.


1) He must aim to keep the opposition tight-head UP so your hooker can see what he’s doing

2) Try to delay your binding on the opposition until as late as possible – this prevents their tight-head from pulling you down

3) If the opposition tight-head can turn your left shoulder down, then you are twisted and de-powered, so keep your elbow HIGH

4) Beware of counter actions (counter what you are trying to do). The opposition prop will be trying to disrupt you.

5) Vary your own binding actions. It is easier to scrummage against a predictable prop.

6) Think about changing the binding for a five metre scrum – do something completely different…They won’t be expecting it!

Prop Tips:

1) Move the head, the body follows. Very NB to know and understand!!

**Thus use your shoulders and arms to move head in direction you want opposition to go in

2) If opposition T/H has outside foot in front, L/H should drive in and upwards, T/H should see his ass and the pop

3) T/H Binding on engagement: Push elbow forward and down pulling L/H arm downwards, this pulls his body downwards

*L/H to stop T/H doing this by putting his elbow up high and binding short

4) T/H must work very hard after engagement! Work upper and lower body hard, provide constant pressure

5) If T/H hips above head after engagement, you should drop hips and drive forward in strong body position. (120deg)

6) Move opposition props head to the outside, his centre of gravity moves with it, thus he becomes unstable

7) The T/H’s weakness is his head, so if your T/H try pulling your head in as much as possible

8) T/H must dominate the bind!

Problem Solving:

1) Loosehead boring into T/H:

*T/H to push his head against L/H as hard as he can, this stops him boring in.

2) L/H being dominated by opposition T/H by having his shoulder forced downwards:

*To fix, L/H lets go of bind, puts hand on knee and pushes upwards, forcing his outside shoulder up

3) Beating a big T/H:

*Loosehead to use his shoulder to push the T/H’s head downwards, so his body follows

*Smash T/H early so he doesn’t achieve his 120deg, he must then take a step backwards

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These are videos on the successful All Black scrums I have found… Look at them and try to see where your team is at compared with these guys.


Take note of the body angles of ALL the players and you will notice all their spines are in line. For the props take special care looking at the feet, hip and knee angles.

Pre-engagement set up

Engagement – Side view

Engagement – Rear view

Training for the scrum


Here are some videos with some drills every player should use to improve their strength for scrumming. They are easy to do and only need a friend or two. You should aim to do these drills twice a week at least.

Remember that your CORE is very important for successful scrumming as well as your LEG and UPPERBODY strength and NECK strength. The front row and the locks should aim to have very strong necks, core muscles and must aim to become as POWERFUL as possible. Power is vital for the initial hit as well as the second shove. Being powerful makes a huge difference in the contact points on the field enabling you dominate your opposition in the tackle, scrum, ruck and maul.

Below are a few drills that will help you train for the scrum.