Story: Rugby union

The 2–3–2 scrum

From its use by Thomas Ellison on the Native tour of 1888–89, the 2–3–2 scrum was New Zealand’s preferred style of scrum. With only seven forwards in the scrum, the eighth forward, the ‘rover’ or wing forward, was free to put the ball into the scrum and to harass the opposing halves. The use of the wing forward was hotly criticised on the 1905–6 and 1924–25 All Black tours of the home countries (Britain). New Zealand continued to use the formation until the 1928 tour of South Africa, when in the first test the All Blacks found that their seven men simply could not compete with the eight Springboks in scrums. For the rest of the tour the All Blacks practised the 3–4–1 scrum. However, they reverted to the old formation on returning to New Zealand, and the British Lions who toured in 1930 were very critical of the practice. The upshot was that in 1931 the International Rugby Board stated that a ball had to pass three feet of the front row of each team before it could be hooked. Since under a 2–3–2 scrum both props could normally hook the ball, this made the old formation impracticable.

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How to cite this page:

Ron Palenski, 'Rugby union - The changing game', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 February 2024)

Story by Ron Palenski, published 5 Sep 2013, updated 1 Sep 2016