Cole: I pre­fer scrum­mag­ing with Youngs to Hart­ley

Eng­land prop de­fends his Le­ices­ter team-mate Loss of con­cen­tra­tion to blame for Fiji wob­bles

The Daily Telegraph - Rugby World Cup - - Sport Rugby World Cup 2015 - By Steve James

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

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