Age Grade Rugby & The Scrum

With particular reference to the U19 scrum law variations.

This blog has been prompted by an email we received from an U16s coach querying the refereeing of the scrum at U16s with particular reference to the maximum 1.5m push...


"Can we look at a scrum for under 16's. I underestand that one team can only be pushed back 1.5 metres. There has been several interpitations by referees over the last couple of years. For me if one side is pushing straight and they move the opposition the 1.5 metres they are entitled to win a penalty. Can you please clarify if that is correct? I have seen several interpretations of the law, one popular one is the team that is dominant that pushes over 1.5m is penalised because they have gone over that distance when told to 'stop' Were I suggest the ref should be blowing his wistle to stop the play asa matter of safety and awarding the penalty."


This would appear to show a complete mis-understanding of the Law and the reasons behind the Law. But it is also worrying that the referees seem to be using different interpretations of the Law.


The scrum is introduced as a 3 person uncontested affair at the U10s level and progresses until you get the 8 person contested scrum at the U16s level (governed by the U19 Law Variations as published in the Law Book). At all stages player safety is the paramount concern and must be considered above all else when refereeing.


The question above refers to the U19 Scrum Law Variations, in particular Law 19.38g "Other restricted practices at a scrum include: Pushing the scrum more than 1.5 metres towards the opponents’ goal line". Sanction - Free Kick.

The Coach asking the question seems to think that it is an offence to be pushed "backwards" whereas the law states that it is an offence to push "forward" more than 1.5m.


In age grade rugby it is not uncommon to have of the same age children who are completely different sizes; Surprise Surprise, children grow a different rates. As a result of this it is possible to have a huge front row against a tiny front row in the same age group. It should therefore be obvious that there is a safety issue with large against small. The restricted 1.5m push forward, together with the restricted 45degree wheel, is intended to prevent the large dominating and possibly injuring the small.


This must be refereed consistently in all cases. The ball should be hook back to the No.8 immediately and the No.8 or the No.9 should use the ball as soon at it is available. They are not, at this level, allowed to hold the ball in the scrum and the referee should call "use it" as soon as the ball is available (Law 19:26). If it looks likely that a team will push forward more that 1.5m the referee should encourage them to stop pushing and use the ball. If they fail to do this then he should penalise them according to the law.


In Age Grade Rugby the referee should attempt to help the players to conform to the Laws.


The RFU website has a lo of useful information about age grade rugby at...

https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/coaching/age-grade-rugby


and a useful set of resources at...

https://www.englandrugby.com/participation/coaching/age-grade-rugby