Law changes will make it much easier for number eights to attack off the base of the scrum.
In the amateur era, it was very common to see number eights break from the back of scrums and thunder into slender fly halves who often acted as mere speed bumps.
Over recent years though that sight has become rare, with defending scrum halves effectively standing alongside the eight as he picked up the ball. As a result, the big ball carrying number eights were unable to gain any momentum before attempting to charge down the fly half’s channel.
However this is all about to change, with World Rugby’s most recent law changes coming into effect in the northern hemisphere in July.
Under the new laws, the defending half back will be unable to pass the attacking teams’s flanker at scrum time, and must remain within a meter of the set piece.
Although this rule change will make it easier for under pressure scrums to clear the ball, it also ensures that number eights have more space from which to launch an attack.
Therefore, powerful number eights such has Billy Vunipola, Kieran Read, Sergio Parisse, and Duane Vermeulen will now be able to use the scrum to launch attacks from anywhere on the field.
This law cam into being in the southern hemisphere at the beginning of the year, but the way in which France defended against England during the Six Nations, illustrates how powerful number eights such as Billy Vunipola can take full advantage of the new laws.
In the lead up to Anthony Watson’s try, French scrum half, Maxime Machenaud, didn’t get close enough to Vunipola, allowing him break from the base of the scrum
As a result, the English number eight powered into the over the French defence, creating the momentum and space for his side to expose an overlap on the left hand side of the field.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena
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