How long do professional rugby players spend standing around doing very little during a game? 5… 10…. 15 minutes? If you were an England winger during the early 1990s it could well be double those times.
Well, here at theblitzdefence we don’t know the answer to that question (yet) but we do know that during a recent European Rugby Champions Cup game nearly 15 minutes elapsed while we waited for the scrum to form! Not great value for the paying spectator and not a great spectacle for those watching at home.
17 scrums, 15 minutes waiting
The match in question was the Scarlets versus Toulon on the 25th January 2015. The game had 17 scrums in total which included one which reformed after the ball had been fed in to the scrum.
We measured the time between the referee blowing his whistle to signal a scrum and the point where the scrum half delivered the ball. Across all the scrums the total elapsed time was just under 15 minutes with the shortest time span being 33 and the longest 84. The average time was 55 seconds.
Remember this is measured against the clock time so in a 80 minute game a touch over 1 in 5 minutes of the game were taken up by waiting for the scrum to form.
What takes up the time? After the whistle has blown the players have a little wander around, the front row then has a chat with the referee, the front row then forms, often there is another chat with the referee, we then wait for the second row to attach and finally the back row also binds on.
When we add in the time between the ball being presented in the tunnel and the scrum ending we get a grand scrum-time total of just under 17 minutes. It should also be noted that this wasn’t a game where the front rows spent endless minutes flopping on the floor or checking their binds.
Does it matter?
We of course need to ensure that the scrum is refereed safely and players have got strong binds but to have nearly 1 in 5 minutes of a professional game spent forming a scrum is not entertaining for those that want to watch rugby.
The other issue is that the slow formation of the scrum reduces the aerobic demands on players meaning they can focus on getting bigger and stronger for short bursts of play rather than shape their fitness towards longer periods of sustained aerobic activity.
The rugby trend towards physical behemoths can be slowed by speeding up the game and the scrum is a good place to start.
It may be that this game is an outlier in terms of number of scrums and the duration of formation but this is something theblitzdefence will continue to look at in the remainder of the season.