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NZR chief scientist and Mike Ross explain 'axial loading' and why it's dangerous

By Josh Raisey
Scrum practice.

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After World Rugby announced the outlawing of axial loading in scrums yesterday, much of the rugby world have been left confused.


While the concept of banning something that is potentially dangerous has not been objected, the jargon that has been used has complicated the process.

Moreover, as there has been such a lack of clarity or explanation as to what the technique actually is, many fans are no clearer on what really has happened.

Conveniently, the chief scientist for New Zealand rugby Ken Quarrie has shared a diagram of what is going on at the scrum with axial loading to help clear up any confusion.

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This is what he shared:


Former Leinster and Ireland tighthead Mike Ross also weighed in with a description of the now illegal technique.

“This became trendy after I refired, but I believe the process was this: On the bind, the hooker and props put their Met back, and most of the weight was loaded onto the hooker, through his neck and head, and onto the shoulder of the opposing hooker The shoulders aren’t touching so they’re not obviously pre-engaged, but the head of the hooker is jammed against his opposite number’s shoulder.

“This would disrupt the shape of the opposition pack (as you can imagine if 800 odd kg is now being leaned on your hooker). You now cannot get across the mad (quickly because the weight of the opposition pack is on you The team doing the “axial loading” enjoys their advantage. Obviously this kills (eventually) the hookers neck.”


Axial loading is so commonplace in rugby that almost all fans would have seen opposing front-rows leaning on one another before the engagement of the scrum but perhaps thought nothing of it.

However, from now on that will be a free-kick in a match, and a penalty or yellow card for repeat offences. This comes after the Law Review Group meeting in London last week.

Player safety is paramount, and this was a part of rugby that was needless, and did not really affect the game in any way, shape or form. But with fans becoming increasingly alienated from the game and its technicalities, this illustration helps many understand what is now illegal in the game.


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