Who’s teach­ing our props to scrum­mage?

The Rugby Paper - - Front Page - JEFF PROBYN

“Watch­ing the French pack de­stroy Eng­land was not a pretty sigh... our props bent and folded in the same way some of our se­niors do”

Any­one watch­ing the U20 fi­nal last Sunday might have had a feel­ing of deja vu as the young Eng­land team con­trived to lose a game they could have won, by giv­ing away too many penal­ties.

Many as­pects of the U20 Eng­land game against France U20 was a mirror of how the se­nior side played with shadow run­ners in the backs and pop ups to for­wards, but most strik­ing was the break­down and the scrum.

Eng­land con­ceded a to­tal of 16 penal­ties to the French nine, many of which came from the same two ar­eas as in the se­nior game, which begs the ques­tion: is there some­thing in the way Premier­ship games are played and ref­er­eed which causes our play­ers to be pe­nalised?

It seems strange that through­out the Premier­ship sea­son we haven’t had com­plaints about the num­ber of penal­ties be­ing awarded at the break­down or scrum, so why should it be so dif­fer­ent at in­ter­na­tional level?

In or­der to at­tract a non rugby au­di­ence, the Premier­ship has needed to make rugby a more ex­cit­ing and a more eas­ily un­der­stood com­mer­cial prod­uct, so this could be in­flu­enc­ing the way the game is played and ref­er­eed on a weekly ba­sis.

Club coaches meet ref­er­ees for brief­ings and try to in­flu­ence them to ref­eree in a par­tic­u­lar way (usu­ally the way their team play); add in the fact that ref­er­ee­ing is now also pro­fes­sional and too many com­plaints from club coaches can lose a ref­eree games and earn­ings, it’s easy to see how that could im­pact on how games are played and ref­er­eed.

Watch­ing the French pack de­stroy young Eng­land wasn’t a pretty sight and al­though they were a pow­er­ful unit, it seemed to me that much of the prob­lem was a lack of knowl­edge of the proper tech­nique, as our props bent and folded in the same way as some of our se­niors do.

The em­pha­sis placed on ball car­ry­ing and lift­ing in the line-out seems to be the most im­por­tant fac­tor for clubs seek­ing young props, with lit­tle or no thought as to a prop’s main job. This is to cre­ate a stable and strong plat­form and trans­mit the power from the rest of your pack through the op­po­si­tion, to pro­vide an at­tack­ing plat­form to build off. Or put more sim­ply, be good in the scrum.

The worry is, many of the young men looked the part but seem­ingly lacked even a ba­sic knowl­edge of sim­ple things, like how to lock a scrum.

Just like se­nior Eng­land, our ju­niors made cru­cial mis­takes more or less when­ever they got into a pres­sure po­si­tion. This then al­lows the op­po­si­tion not only to re­lieve the pres­sure but more times than not, counter at­tack and score points.

It is true that sides un­der pres­sure give up more penal­ties than dom­i­nant teams, but part of that is con­fi­dence, where if you are los­ing games, panic en­sues when things go wrong.

In the se­nior side Ed­die Jones isn’t help­ing things in the Eng­land camp by blam­ing his play­ers, with many of the prob­lems be­ing more of a tech­ni­cal na­ture. Play­ing play­ers out of po­si­tion doesn’t help ei­ther, as much of in­ter­na­tional rugby is played by in­stinct and ex­per­tise, where you just know what to do be­cause you’ve done it so many times be­fore and don’t need to think about it. Which is just as well as there isn’t usu­ally time to stop and think.

The need for in­stinc­tive rugby is mag­ni­fied when play­ing in hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments like at al­ti­tude, which is some­thing Jones doesn’t seem to have taken into ac­count when mov­ing playJones, ers around or pre­par­ing the team. His weekly mantra of how well the team has trained is out of kil­ter with his post match com­ments and ap­pears to be a plat­i­tude for the press, which raises ex­pec­ta­tions be­fore the games and in­creases much dis­ap­point­ment af­ter.

It is true that Eng­land are not far off the game they need to be com­pet­i­tive, but you can say the same for most of the teams com­pet­ing this sum­mer. Ar­gentina weren’t far off Wales, Scot­land should have beaten the USA, Ire­land could have won their first Test against Aus­tralia and France, well the All Blacks al­ways seem to get the luck with ref­er­ees and TMOs.

Yes­ter­day’s South Africa Test was made ir­rel­e­vant as soon as Rassie Eras­mus said af­ter the 2nd Test vic­tory he was go­ing to ex­per­i­ment for the fi­nal game, vir­tu­ally say­ing the re­sult didn’t mat­ter, as he had got what he wanted in win­ning the se­ries.

we are told, is ob­ses­sive about de­tail and had a plan of how he wanted Eng­land to train and play in Ja­pan RWC, stay­ing at a sin­gle base and trav­el­ling to games, which has been re­fused by World Rugby. This South Africa trip was sup­posed to be a trial run for his World Cup plan but as far as I know, un­less they want to prac­tise on Mount Fuji, no games at the World Cup are be­ing played at al­ti­tude.

With Jones’ ob­ses­sion to de­tail, it is a sur­prise he doesn’t seem to have taken on board the well doc­u­mented med­i­cal ad­vice about how and when to travel and play at al­ti­tude.Which begs an­other ques­tion, was he too fo­cused on Ja­pan, or did he think af­ter South Africa’s re­cent de­cline, they were so bad it didn’t mat­ter?

It would be ironic if his ob­ses­sion with the World Cup was the cause of the Eng­land team’s run of bad results and de­clin­ing con­fi­dence, which could even­tu­ally dam­age their RWC prospects.

Mon­stered: France U20s pack dom­i­nated Eng­land in the Ju­nior World Cup fi­nal

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