With mounting concerns over the amount of injuries in the game, should the IRB depower the scrum? Dr. Mick Molloy, the former Ireland lock and the IRB's first ever Medical Officer, spoke to Total Rugby Radio about the issue.
The International Rugby Board's proposed change to Rule 20 on the scrum contest - to eliminate the charge when the two sets of forward packs engage at a scrum - could be one of the most historic and controversial in rugby's history.
The move, sought amid growing concerns for player safety, could see the modern game's 130kg 'super-sized' props put out to pasture and the possibility of the law change going ahead has already drawn the ire of some ex-internationals in the Southern Hemisphere.
Although others in the game are backing it, notably Australian coach John Connolly who said: "Anything that helps the safety of the game is fine by me. Most people won't notice the change. There will still be scrummaging and it will probably help speed up the game by cutting down on collapsed and reset scrums."
The proposed law, which will come under consideration at the IRB Council meeting next month, would see the setting of scrums at arm's length before engagement done away with. Instead, packs would have to bound together before engaging in the push after the scrum half's feed.
Read on for Dr. Molloy's thoughts.
Dr. Mick Molloy: "There's obvious concern about the front row, specifically at the community level. The incidents of injury at senior is not significant, but at the community level there's clearly a worry about suitability of individuals for that position.
"Last January the IRB's Medical Advisory Committee decided to set up to set up this consensus group to get a consensus document on injury definition and epidemiology.
"In other words we had loads of information from around the world, which wasn't always comparable. The measurements weren't quite the same so we've got a document with a definite definition of an injury now, accepted and finalised at the end of September of this year.
"This document will be used in future to record all injuries in rugby worldwide which will allow us to compare like with like."
"(Regarding the Medical Advisory Committee meeting in Dublin on September 29) The Medical Advisory Committee, made up of representatives worldwide, team doctors and medical advisors from around the world who meet on a regular basis and who review the medical matters and make decisions on medical matters, were at the meeting.
"They felt there was a need to take action in relation to the scrum and made their views known to the Experimental Laws Group who met two days later, reviewing the actual laws in relation to engagement in the scrum and looking at how the risk at engagement could be reduced.
"Recommendations were made and passed on to the Rugby Committee and will be discussed later by the Council of the IRB.
"On applying the existing laws, in other words on contact, the engagement would have to involved a more gentle contact rather than the charging or the crashing into the scrum that one sees all so often at the international level in the professional game.
"The significant forces generated by both teams and if the gap is widened on collision, the risk of injury is greater. Basically the technicalities there are governed by the referee on the day but the laws are simplified to make it easy to understand that it's an arm's length away from the opponents and then a gentle engagement under the control of the referee when both sides are ready."
...The front rows of Namibia and Ireland battle it out during the 2003 Rugby World Cup...
"(On the opinion that 130kg props will be done away with if the law changed) I think the group examining the situation here were looking at the IRB statement that all shapes and sizes could be accomodated, and specifically in the front row, there is a particular shape that is more appropriate and that particular shape, if selected, is less at risk of injury than other body types.
"If you look at other sports where changes have come in, like Rugby League, you end up with players all looking exactly the same shape and size.
"In fact by retaining the original format and just making minor adjustments, it allows for the various shapes and sizes to continue and specifically that relates to the front row."