Plumtree refutes suggestion that new scrum laws will reduce the importance of props
New Irish forwards coach says technically good props and a scrummaging hooker still going to prove crucial figures
Incoming Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree: “The law makers have probably made the scrum a little easier to referee.” Photograph: by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)
Ireland’s incoming forwards coach John Plumtree has refuted the suggestion that new scrum laws will make the traditionally big prop an extinct force in modern rugby.
“I have heard a lot of people say that we don’t need big props anymore and a loose forward can do the job,” wrote Plumtree in his column for South Africa Rugby magazine, “but what they forget is that front rowers are very clever.
“Good props love the dark places on the field and there is no darker place than the frontrow battle. Having technically good props and a scrummaging hooker is still going to be crucial under the new laws.
“Because the hit has been de-powered, the back five now also have to generate power by – shock, horror – having to push in the scrums. This is great news for the backs, who now get a little more time with the ball before having someone like George Smith breathing down their necks.
“Coaches and a pack of forwards will always be looking for a scrum advantage so it’s crucial that refs know their stuff in this area of the game. The law makers have probably made the scrum a little easier to ref, so hopefully refs will become more accurate in their decision-making at scrum time.”
A problem already evident from the new “crouch-touch-set” scrum instructions is that scrumhalves are being punished for crooked put-ins.
From the 12 scrums during last Saturday’s New Zealand versus Australia Test match in Sydney four were penalised by referee Craig Joubert for crooked feeds.
“From the games I’ve seen and at training it has certainly alleviated the collapsing and the negative scrummaging,” said Leinster’s new coach Matt O’Connor.
“I just hope they don’t go too hard on the straightness of the feed. That is largely irrelevant to me; scrummaging is a pushing contest first and foremost and if they get them square and get them to push straight then the team that dominates should get rewarded.”
Plumtree added: “The main talking point has been that a scrum now lasts another three seconds, so it’s all now about ‘scrum endurance’ for the eight most important guys on the field as they are in a scrummaging position for a longer period of time.”
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