Set pieces are a way of restarting the game after the ball has gone out of play or an infringement has occurred. As the major winners of possession, the forwards are involved in the set pieces.
When a player kicks, fumbles or carries the ball off the field of play – into touch – a lineout is awarded to the opposition. The forwards then form two opposing lines a metre apart, where the ball went out, and the hooker throws it back into play. The hooker must throw the ball straight between the two lines and deliver it from behind the head, so players from both sides can compete equally for possession by jumping for the ball. It is one area where towering second rows and back row forwards can dominate.
The scrum is one of the purest examples of teamwork and confrontation in rugby. Each team’s eight forwards bind together and try to push the opposition eight backwards in order to gain possession. The scrum half of the team with possession puts the ball into the channel between both sets of forwards and as the teams push, the two hookers compete for the ball, attempting to hook it back to the rear of the scrum using their feet. Once it reaches the back of the scrum, the scrum half can retrieve it and continue play. Meanwhile, the forwards must stay fully bound to each other until the ball is out.
To be successful in the scrum, a team’s pack of forwards must combine flawless technique with an abundance of raw power. At international level, each team will be applying around three and a half tons of pressure during the scrum.
To form a scrum, the hooker binds by taking hold of a prop under each arm, while the second rows place their heads in the spaces between the props’ and hooker’s hips. In the front row, the loose-head prop has one side of their head free when engaging opposition front row, and the tight-head prop has both sides in the scrum. The flankers – the open-side flanker on the side of the pitch with most space and the blind-side flanker on the side with less space – then bind onto either side, with the No.8 binding by placing their head between the two second rows’ hips.
The team with possession are said to 'have the feed' in the scrum, which is an advantage. The scrum half puts the ball into the channel between the opposing front rows from the side of their loose-head prop. This makes it easier for his hooker to hook the ball back to his side of the scrum with the right foot. Once the ball comes out of the back of the scrum at the No.8’s feet, he or she can pick it up, or the scrum half will retrieve it and open play resumes.