TOKYO, 19 Oct - At Rugby World Cup 2019, starting scrum-halves and the team-mates who have replaced them have scored 26 tries. This makes them the third most productive scorers of the pool phase after right-wings (37 tries) and left-wings (31).
At RWC 2015, only 14 tries were scored by scrum-halves in the pool phase so the total has nearly doubled in Japan. The most memorable of those tries in 2015 was probably by Gareth Davies for Wales against England.
The successful conversion, at 72 minutes, put Wales level after they had trailed since the 24th minute. They went on to win 28-25 but the presence of two Wales scrum-halves on the pitch at the same time was not planned; rather, it had been forced on head coach Warren Gatland.
A few minutes before the try, above, replacement scrum-half Lloyd Williams was sent on for the injured left-wing Hallam Amos. Having two scrum-halves on the pitch was unusual, but it was a Williams kick that created the try for Davies.
Four years ago, scrum-half tries almost always came from sniping around the fringes of a ruck or maul. Only the Davies try and one by Namibia against Argentina could not be classified in this way. There were no individual tries from No.9s, and none from pass interceptions.
Fast forward to 2019 and the picture is very different. Only seven of the 26 tries by the scrum-halves have been scored from in and around the rucks. Instead, they are running great support lines to receive the try-scoring pass, exhibiting individual brilliance or intercepting passes.
Here, Uruguay scrum-half Santiago Arata receives the ball nearly 40 metres out but beats two Fiji defenders to put Uruguay 7-5 up after the conversion. Apart from the exploits of the hosts, Uruguay's win that day is the shock of this tournament.
The first of Cobus Reinach's three tries for the Springboks against Canada, pictured top, is another example of individual brilliance by a scrum-half.
When Wales played Australia in the best match of Pool D, Davies again scored an unusual try for a scrum-half. He intercepted a pass from his opposite number, Will Genia, and sprinted for the line to put Wales 21-8 up just before half-time. The Wales tactic is discussed here.
Scotland's George Horne also scored from an intercept against Russia but had significantly fewer metres to run.
By far the biggest change in try-scoring from scrum-halves, though, is due to great support running, such as that from which Davies benefitted in 2015. His team-mate Tomos Williams, playing in his first World Cup, scored a try against Georgia in Toyota City that was similar to the Davies one at Twickenham four years ago. The best example, though, is Frenchman Antoine Dupont's beautifully executed score against Argentina.
Dupont feeds the ball to Virimi Vakatawa, the outside-centre, and does not appear to be involved in the move as he jogs just behind the play. After the ball is played to Maxime Medard and then Damian Penaud, a brief turn of speed puts Dupont in the perfect position to receive Penaud's offload and score in the corner.
Try-scoring by scrum-halves has increased at this World Cup due to the variety of ways they now threaten the line.
Tries scored from around the fringes still happen, but fitter, faster players at No.9 are now able to provide more threats. A situation forced on Wales at RWC 2015 has become a tactic, as scrum-halves move to the wing to accommodate two on the field at the same time.