Background: Since World Rugby changed the laws regarding scrums in the 2013-2014 season, the sustained push phase of the scrum has become of greater tactical importance. Therefore, the purpose of this sytematic literature review was to examine the biomechanical demands during the sustained push phase of individual, unit, and full pack scrummaging.
Methods: Pubmed, EBSCO (specifically and simultaneously searching Academic Search Premier, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus), and Google Scholar were searched for any research that presented force production in a live or simulated rugby scrum. Study quality was appraised using the National Institute of Health's Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies. Recorded scrum forces, positioning of players including joint angles, and testing procedures were extracted and narratively synthesized.
Results: Twenty six studies were included in the review. 50% of included studies were rated good, 31% fair, and 19% poor. Major limitations included not reporting any effect size, statistical power, or reliability. Reported group mean values for average sustained forces against a machine generally ranged from 1000-2000 N in individual scrums and 4000-8000 N for full packs of male rugby players older than high school age. Individuals seem to optimize their force generation when their shoulders are set against scrum machine pads at approximately 40% of body height, with feet parallel, and with knee and hip angles around 120°. A 10% difference in pack force seems to be necessary for one pack to drive another back in the scrum, but little data exist to quantify differences in force production between winning and losing packs during live scrums. Data collection within studies was not standardized, making comparisons difficult. There is a lack of data in live scrums, and the current research indicates that machine scrums may not replicate many of the demands of live scrums. There is a lack of data for female rugby players.
Conclusions: This review indicates an optimal individual body position for players to strive to achieve during scrummaging, consisting of a low body height (40% of stature) and large extended hip and knee angles (120° each).