Cole: I prefer scrummaging with Youngs to Hartley
England prop defends his Leicester team-mate Loss of concentration to blame for Fiji wobbles
England’s scrummage is under fire again after a spluttering performance on Friday night in the 35-11 victory against Fiji, and the prop Dan Cole has launched a staunch defence of hooker Tom Youngs.
Cole and Youngs are Leicester teammates but Cole was emphatic in insisting that he prefers playing alongside Youngs rather than Dylan Hartley, the Northampton hooker who is missing the World Cup because of a ban.
“I prefer Youngs,” Cole said. “I think we work well together at the club. Yes, he’s shorter and might have a bit less ballast, but technically he’s very good. Because he was converted from centre, he didn’t have any bad habits. He worked hard with Mefin Davies and George Chuter at Leicester. He’s one of the most powerful guys in the squad. Tom Youngs all the way.”
Cole also tried to explain how difficult it can be actually to hook the ball these days. “Sometimes they hook and sometimes they don’t. It depends on the situation. Their tighthead and hooker on our hooker, it’s difficult for him to lift his foot because his foot’s on the deck pushing. By lifting his foot it can destabilise the scrum, so there are a few times when you can’t hook.
“Ideally you would, but the pressure in the modern game means you have to judge whether you can or you can’t on a scrum-by-scrum basis.”
Cole did admit that England’s Pool A opponents, Wales and Australia, would be encouraged by England’s continuing problems at the scrummage, with their latest mishap being to lose a strike against the head near their own line against Fiji, who then scored.
“We’ve got to be better mentally, because we switched off in an area in which we probably can’t afford to,” Cole said. “On the next scrum we pretty much went straight through Fiji, so we put it right. It’s not a physical aspect, more of a mental one. We have to understand that five metres out is an area Fiji would go for us and Wales and Australia will now be licking their lips.
“We understand we’ve got to be better and realise that we can’t give opportunities like that to teams. Australia and Wales will believe they can get a result at our set piece and will go at us hard there. There will be work done. It’s still a work in progress, but we understand it’s got to be a quick one.”
Cole did deny, however, that any problem at the scrummage was caused by the relatively lightweight lock pairing of Geoff Parling and Courtney Lawes, with Joe Launchbury pushing for a recall. “Would I love a 150kg, 6ft 10in lock behind me who’d make me look really good? Yes, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got,” Cole said.
“Geoff and Courtney are doing a great job now. We had that one bad scrum on our line, but I think the rest of the time they were in there pushing. The second row is not all about size.
“I know with Geoff that he’s going to be pushing 100 per cent of the time, and that’s what you want from your second row. I don’t care whether he is 30kg or 130kg. It’s all very well having someone massive, but if they’re not going to do it consistently, you don’t know where you stand. I’ve got no issues with Geoff behind me.”
As for the mood in the England changing room after the Fiji match Cole admitted that it was one of frustration. “We didn’t control the game as well as we wanted. Fiji are a good side, but we didn’t get the set piece, territory or possession that we wanted.
“In the first half we had one maul, and we scored from it. I don’t think we went back to the maul till the middle of the second half. We kept Fiji in the game throughout.”
Flashpoint: a frustrated Dan Cole comes face to face with Campese Ma’afu