Rugby has moved to punish manipulation of uncontested scrums by stripping teams of a player.

Uncontested scrums are a rare sight but if teams involved in this year's Super Rugby lose four of their six front-rowers to injury, or three of their four props, they will have to play the remainder of the match with 14 men.

The only exception will be if front-rowers leave the field due to a head injury assessment or blood related knock.

Should a team lose two props to injury and one more to a yellow or red card, they will then be forced to play with 13 players.


In the case of a yellow card, the team will be restored to 15 players after the 10 minute period in the bin.

The purpose of the crackdown is to avoid situations such as the controversy surrounding Chiefs prop Siate Tokolahi and the uncontested scrums in a match against the Hurricanes last year.

With the Chiefs struggling to win their ball from scrums, Tokolahi left the field late. The Chiefs then claimed replacement prop Siegfried Fisi'ihoi could not play tighthead which forced uncontested scrums. This played a hand in the Chiefs clinging on for a 28-27 victory.

In this situation, by forcing uncontested scrums, they would now lose a player of their choice.

The Chiefs are not alone.

In the week before facing the All Blacks, Wales were accused of bringing the game into disrepute after Warren Gatland appeared to manipulate his front-row substitutes to force uncontested scrums and scrape out a 13-6 win over Georgia.

In both cases, the dominant scrum had its dominance unfairly taken away.

This rule change is designed to counter that negative tactic.

Another adjustment to the scrums means there will now be no pre-engage, with front-rows mandated to keep the gap. Initially at leat this could lead to more re-sets.

Other rule tweaks adopted by the All Blacks in their November internationals - those around the scrum and tackle arena - will also be adopted by Super Rugby this season.

Teams have spent up to one week with referees in camp getting up to speed.

Rule tweaks:

Scrum: No signal from referee. Halfback to decide when to put ball in. Halfback must put ball in straight but can align his shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, allowing him to stand a shoulder width towards his side of the middle line.

Scrum hook - One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.

No 8 may pick the ball up from the feet of the locks.

Tackler - Must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from his side of the tackle gate.

Ruck (formation) - A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside line is created. A player on his feet may use his hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives no hands can be used. (Made to avoid repeat of Itlay's tactics against England last year)

Ruck (kicking) - A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player can only hook it in a backwards motion.