New brake foot law explained by Six Nations referee - Ruck

New brake foot law explained by Six Nations referee

The team at ACME Whistles spoke to the referee behind the whistle at Murryfield about how the new law introduced for this tournament will affect the play. 

The new brake foot law explained by Ben O’Keeffe.

“The brake foot law is to try and protect hookers, and protecting players futures, around axial loading. 

“Axial loading is the pressure that hookers put on their necks and their vertebra when at a join a scrum they’re taking the weight of their whole pack, and when you’ve got your head on the opposition shoulder. They do this to create a gap and create stability. 

“They do this because of the way the scrum has moved forward now. So, when a referee calls ‘bind’ both of the hookers feet go back and they get into position to push. 

“But the only way that they can stop the whole scrum, so seven other men or women, from moving forward is through their necks! 

“They are basically carrying the weight of the whole pack through their neck. 

“It was both the players and coaches that said we need to protect our players and sort out axial loading, and the way the game has decided to do that is by creating this brake foot law.” 

Ben continued to explain what this means for the players: 

“The new law dictates a split stance of the hooker.  When referees call ‘crouch’ the hookers will be in their normal split stance. However, when we call ‘bind’, instead of them putting both feet back so they’re aligned, they’re going to keep one of their feet in front of the other – keeping a little bit of separation between their feet to take their own weight. 

“Some hookers will have a large great foot, some will have a very small brake foot but there needs to be that split stance there.  

“This means that their weight is going to be naturally through the body and they’re not having to take the weight from the opposition onto their neck.” 


When asked how he will referee the new law, Ben said:

‘How we’re going to referee that is if you don’t have a brake foot, the hooker is going to be liable for a sanction, which is a free kick. If it’s repeated it’s a penalty. 

“We’re really trying to encourage this as we’ve got to get axial loading out of the game if hookers are going to have longevity in the game. We feel a responsibility as referees to try and do this.  

“As we’re refereeing the first game, we have a responsibility to try and be smart around the decision making for this, because we know that it’s going to be new for hookers, it’s going to be new for us, it’s going to be new for the public.” 

Ben concluded our chat by summarizing what we’ll see from the stands: 

“I think what the public will see is a longer delay between calling bind and set because there will be more for us to check.  

“I think you’ll see more stable scrums; I’m hoping that you’ll see scrums stay up for longer because the speed of the call isn’t as fast; and you should see that split stance by the hookers. 

“If the players can really buy into it, it will mean that they’ll still be able to get speed at the scrum. We’re still going to have a really good contest, but we’re gonna avoid any of those long-term injuries.” 

To find out more about the ACME Whistles support for officials across rugby, visit

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