Law discussion: Uncontested minus one
In the match between the Chiefs and the Hurricanes, the Chiefs wanted to replace an injured prop and ended up with 14 men.
In the 76th minutes of the match, with the Chiefs leading 28-27, the Chiefs suffered an injury to tighthead Siate Tokolahim. He limped off and replacement Siegfried Fisi'ihoi came on – a fairly recent convert from No.8 to loosehead. But the player who went off, Tokolahim, was a tighthead. That meant uncontested scrums
Law 3.6 UNCONTESTED SCRUMS
(a) Scrums will become uncontested if either team cannot field a suitably trained front row or if the referee so orders.
(c) When a front row player leaves the playing area, whether through injury or temporary or permanent suspension, the referee will enquire at that time whether the team can continue with contested scrums. If the referee is informed that the team will not be able to contest the scrum then the referee will order uncontested scrums. If the player returns or another front row player comes on then contested scrums may resume.
Go back in the match.
The Chiefs started with Atu Moli at tighthead. Just before half-time he injured his shoulder and went off. He went off because of injury. Because he went off because of injury he was not allowed to play again.
Law 3.8 Permanent replacement
A player may be permanently replaced if injured. If the player is permanently replaced, that player must not return and play in that match. The replacement of the injured player must be made when the ball is dead and with the permission of the referee.
Tokolahim came on to replace Moli – tighthead for tighthead, and the game went on with contested scrums in which the Hurricanes became overwhelmingly dominant. The Chiefs loosehead, Mitchell Graham, played the whole match, which meant that Fisi'ihoi stayed on the bench.
The other front row replacement was hooker Hika Elliot for hooker Rhys Marshall.
But the injury to Tokolahim meant that both the Chiefs' tightheads had gone off injured.
Then the law becomes quite clear in the matter of this 23-squad match.
Law 3.6 UNCONTESTED SCRUMS
(d) In a squad of 23 players, or at the discretion of the Union/match organiser, a player whose departure has caused the referee to order uncontested scrums cannot be replaced.
That meant that Fisi'ihoi had either to play tighthead in contested scrums or stay on the bench if the scrums were to be uncontested. That is what Fisi'ihoi did. That is why the Chiefs played on with 14 men.
The law is quite clear.
It would seem that a team is likely to be forced into uncontested scrums if it loses both looseheads or both tightheads, even both hookers.