Anorak wearing trainspotter? That’s how Greg Growden describes people who like scrums. I’m convinced people who don’t like scrums just don’t understand them, so I’m planning to write a few articles starting with the basics, getting more technical into the vibe, feeling and Mabo of the forward arts.
I won’t just focus on scrums, I’ll delve into general forward play as well.
Anyone who has read what I talk about on this site will know that I am passionate about piggies.
Watching the Wallabies versus Springbok game last week a mate turned to me about half way through and told me I was watching a different game from him. I asked what he meant and he said I was cheering and screaming at completely different times from him and the majority of the table.
Out of a group of ten of us there was only one other bloke who put his hand up and said, “I like the game he is watching.”
I wasn’t surprised to see that it was our token Kiwi who was in agreement with me.
Most Aussies have a back centric focus on rugby – my aim is to create a forum that focuses up front.
Hopefully we create a space that the aficionado can discuss forward play in detail and the novice can come to learn more and asks questions that dare not be raised in the knitting circles that the backs enjoy so much.
Sheek recently put up an excellent post regarding Wallaby players with the highest winning percentages and found five props in the top twenty: Ewen McKenzie, Tony Daly, Andrew Blades, Richard Harry and Dan Crowley.
This should not surprise anyone who cares about scrums. Harry is the weakest scrummager in that mix (Rod Moore used to come on for hard scrummaging tests in that period) but the important thing for me is that focus and care for scrummaging is one of the rocks that the ’91 and ’99 Rugby World Cup triumphs were built on.
I will never forgive Eddie Jones for devaluing scrums. He decided that scrummaging ability was not the first thing that a prop would be picked for and that led directly to Al Baxter becoming the most capped Wallaby of all time – I could cry.
It has been a long decade but finally props are being picked for scrummaging (except Cowan, I don’t know why he is there, should be Holmes). Anyway after a long wait I am starting to get excited again.
Robbie Deans has upped the skill level of the team with regard to passing and catching (except for Digby who brings a pinball like ability to bounce off people and keeps making yards so he seems to be excused for having hands like feet). Dingo has also demanded a huge improvement in our forward and set piece play.
I read a great article that when Brad Thorn first switched to union and had signed with the Crusaders he went out to Robbie’s farm. Within minutes Deans had Thorn standing one legged on a fence post lobbing a sand shoe above his head to start teaching him the balance needed to be a lineout jumper.
It was a key skill he would need to develop that was alien to the league game and could be trained with just two people who didn’t have a ball. It showed an understanding of forward play that I want more people to appreciate.
Looking at the test season so far, the Wallaby forwards had a much improved showing last week against the Boks compared to their efforts against Samoa. I’d say they improved from a D to an B-.
They collectively hit a lot more breakdowns and their scrum was much improved but they will need to improve again to compete next week. At the breakdown although there are more of them turning up they are still not working as a unit and binding to each other.
They must start working together and keep their feet while being tightly bound as they drive over the ball. Too often they stop at the ball or if they do go over it, they do it as an individual and take out one opposition player – usually while losing their feet.
Focus on binding with their team mates, keeping their feet and driving past the ball will start getting them to the required level.
I won’t go too far into the scrum in this article but Kepu looks quite comfortable at loosehead and Alexander has improved enormously in his two games at tight.
Alexander is still quite inconsistent. He started last week with a couple of scrums that he allowed himself to be driven up, he had one scrum where adjusting to get low he allowed his hips to be higher than his shoulders so it collapsed and his next adjustment was being a bit far away on the hit so that his legs were over extended.
Eventually he settled into a better position and we saw some real pressure delivered against the Bok pack. Much improved but he will need to get to a point where he can get into good position much earlier and then deliver it consistently throughout the game before I start relaxing regarding the 3 jumper.
Anyway for the novices if you have stuck this far I will go through the basics of scrummaging in the next article. For those of a like mind to me, welcome – hope you don’t get bored while I talk at an under 12 level but hopefully this will be a regular forum for focussing on forward play.