Leading players have welcomed the introduction of a “brake foot” to help stabilise scrums and prevent axial loading.
Axial loading is the practice whereby front row players – primarily hookers – lean their heads onto opponents’ shoulders in between the referee’s ‘bind’ and ‘set’ calls at the scrum. The addition of an extended foot will act as a brake on those axial load pressures during the sequence – hence the term ‘brake foot’.
Many feel the practice has crept back into the game in recent years and a trial will take place during the upcoming Men’s, Women’s and U20 Six Nations where referees will penalise any hooker who does not use his “brake foot” to take the pressure of the pack.
International Rugby Players and member associations consulted international hookers and front-rowers, who called for something to be done to alleviate concerns.
New Zealand’s Dane Coles, who was among those to feedback to International Rugby Players on the subject, said: “Axial loading has the potential to be dangerous to players – particularly hookers – and something needed to be done to make the scrum safer. Hopefully the brake foot will do that and also reduce scrum collapses so the game can be a better spectacle for fans.”
“Hookers and front rowers from all over the world have worked with International Rugby Players to give their views and their ideas on this issue, so it’s great to see this trial introduced and hopefully protect the players and improve the game.”
Connacht and Ireland hooker Dave Heffernan who also worked with the players association to bring about the change, said: “I’m glad to see the brake foot being trialled in scrums. From talking to other hookers, axial loading seems to be causing neck-related issues and while this trial is welcome, it needs to be enforced by referees for both front rows. It will be interesting to see the difference it makes during the 6 Nations.”
The trial outcomes will be considered with potential for being adopted into full law.
International Rugby Players Head of Legal and Player Welfare David Quinlan added: “This is a positive development but we will review it and talk to our players after the 6 Nations to see whether any improvements can be added to ensure players are protected as much as possible.”
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