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Essentials of the Argentinian 'Bajada' rugby scrum

by Bruce Ross, CEO, MyoQuip Pty Ltd (June 2006)

Argentinian teams are renowned for the effectiveness of their scrummaging and the central importance of the scrum to their game. From an early age, Argentinian forwards are schooled in the 'Bajada' or 'Bajadita,' a radically different scrum method invented in the late 'Sixties by the legendary Francisco Ocampo.

The most obvious characteristic of the Bajada is that second-rowers bind with their external arms around the prop's hip rather than between their legs. But, as explained by Springbok coach Jake White (, one defining characteristic of the method is that "all the power is directed into the hooker. In other words, they scrum along an imaginary arrow drawn pointing inwards from either side of the No 8, which means all the power is directed towards the hooker."

The other defining characteristic is the "Empuje Coordinado" or "Coordinated Push." "The scrumhalf gives a three part call after the "engage". On "pressure" all members of the pack tighten their binds and fill their lungs with air. On the call "one" everyone sinks; the legs at this point should be at 90 degrees. On "two" the pack comes straight forward while violently expelling the air from their lungs. A key note is that nobody moves their feet until forward momentum is established. If the first drive is insufficient the scrumhalf begins the call again and the opposing pack is usually caught off guard and pushed back." Rugby Union from the Virtual Library of Sport

A more detailed explanation of the Bajada was recently published in the World Rugby Forum. It was written by Sergio Espector, a Level 3 coach with Club San Patricio in Buenos Aires. Sergio played for 27 years with the Club and has coached for nearly 20 years. He has kindly given me permission to reproduce his notes which I have reformatted - hopefully without too much distortion of his meaning:

Empuje Coordinado is the resultant of a lot of little details in the way that the props place their feet, the locks bind,and the flankers and the number-eight bind and push too. The eight players push at the same time and in three movements, put all the power to the center of the front row. But the most important thing is that here in Argentina we believe that the scrum is not just another way to put the ball in play.

To have a successful scrum with all eight forwards pushing in a coordinated way, the players' obligations are:

  • to respect individual techniques;
  • to respect group techniques;
  • to not initiate individual confrontations;
  • to stay in place before the opponent and focus on the task to be carried out; and
  • to undertake physical training appropriate to the demands of their position.

Individual skills

  • Backs to be straight
  • Heads lifted up
  • Hips lower than shoulders
  • Knees flexed to 90 degrees
  • All eight forwards must bind strongly and there must be no space between players
  • Feet placement must not change when the scrum is formed
  • All players must be able to see the ball at every moment in the scrum
  • Feet placement must be shoulder width

Correct body position

Front row

  • Props bind strongly on the hooker below the armpits, and the hooker binds on the props in the same way
  • Hooker's feet in line
  • Props' internal foot in line with the hooker's feet, and external foot a little bit backward
  • Hooker determines the right distance between packs
  • At referee's signal to engage crouch and drive forward
  • Never enter diagonally or across the opponent
  • Heads should be in contact with the chest of the opponent
  • The push must be FORWARD

Second row

  • They bind on the other second-rower around their back
  • They bind on the prop with their external arm around prop's hip and strongly pull together the front row
  • Before engagement must have the knee of their internal leg resting on the ground
  • Internal foot a little bit backward
  • The shorter second-rower binds under the taller one
  • Heads below props' and hooker's buttocks

Back Row

  • Flankers bind on the second-rower below the other second-rower's arm
  • Flankers' external hands on ground
  • Number-eight binds around the second-rowers' hips
  • All must have feet in line
  • Flankers put shoulders below prop's buttocks
  • Number-eight puts head between the second-rowers' buttocks

Pack Technique

  • After referee's command: "Engage"
  • First command by the scrum half: "Pressure" - on this command the eight players must grip strongly with their arms and fill up lungs with air
  • Second command by the scrum half: "One" - at this time all eight players must flex their knees to 90 degrees
  • Third command by the scrum half: "Two" - the scrum half puts the ball into the scrum, or his opponent puts the ball in, and the players must expel the air in their lungs while pushing violently FORWARD, never up or down, nor to the side
  • With this all the force is transmitted to the hooker
  • Players must never move their feet off the ground until they overcome their opponents and have positive inertia - it is very important that the hooker respects this even though he has the ball under his feet
  • It is not necessary to hook the ball, but in my club we use hooking when the ball is put in by us, and all players push when the ball is put by the opponents

We spend a lot of time in training, developing individual and group skills to be able to scrum the way we like, because we think scrum is a strength that not only produces benefits to our forwards' minds, but equally produces collateral damage in our opponents. This is because in the first place their front-rowers and second-rowers lose energy to contribute to open play, and in modern rugby if you don't have 15 players playing all the time you are lost, and in the second place their back-rowers lose speed in defense, because they are busy pushing.

Comments are welcomed. For inclusion please email to Bruce Ross.

(This article also appears on the MyoQuip Blog website. It may be reproduced so long as full acknowledgement of sources is provided.)

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The ScrumTruk strength-increasing machine is used for development of the pushing muscles employed in the rugby scrum. Note that the body position is virtually identical to that adopted in both the scrum itself and when using the 8-man scrum machine. The player has intuitively adopted a natural exercising position with straight line loading on the lumbar region.