IRFU turn to indigenous scrum coaches

Plan to recruit foreign overseer replaced by new plan

Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek was part of the process that lead to putting  the emphasis on indigenous scrum coaches working  at underage level. Photograph:  Donall Farmer/Inpho

Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek was part of the process that lead to putting the emphasis on indigenous scrum coaches working at underage level. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho


The IRFU have dropped their plan to appoint a high performance scrum coach.

The position, initially advertised worldwide following the defeat to England at Twickenham in March 2012, when the Irish scrum was exposed after Mike Ross got injured, is instead being filled by several indigenous coaches.

The union will also bring over noted scrum gurus like New Zealander Mike Cron and Argentinean Enrique Rodríguez on a consultancy basis.

“We decided to take a totally different tack as to how we would do that because bringing in one guy and putting all your eggs in one basket we decided, well, that’s stupid,” said IRFU director of rugby Eddie Wigglesworth.

“One individual person over Irish scrummaging meant we were importing a culture and we feel we have a very strong scrummaging culture in Ireland going way back.

“There are three or four scrum coaches out there, like Mike Cron and Rodríguez, but it is far better to have a menu of those guys who Colin [McEntee, IRFU high performance manager] can bring in to do sessions. Rather than one guy trying to do a national programme while driving around the four provinces. That’s not going to make a difference.”

The union also believe the recent change to engagement laws has levelled the playing field for smaller Irish props, as Leinster’s Cian Healy confirmed this week.

Sweet spot
“Yeah, it is possible for looseheads to do more now,” said Healy. “Now you are starting off in the sweet spot so it is a chance to go at them. A big, heavy tighthead was always the one I struggled with so it takes the element of them using their weight out of it. It goes down to a muscle off, using strength and technique.”

Wigglesworth continued: “The game has gone back to the style of scrummaging in the 1970s, 1980s and early 90s before Australia decided they didn’t have the slap bang effect because they didn’t have technique down there but they had big props. That’s when we went into the aggression and the hit.

“We have gone full cycle. Up to this it was about getting the body size right. Now with the change in emphasis it is about technique and flexibility.”

This season every provincial squad, from the seniors down to under-18, have had an individual scrum coach.

“I sat down with Greg Feek (Leinster), Allen Clarke (Ulster), Dan McFarland (Connacht) and Paul McCarthy (Munster) and we brain-stormed the programme,” McEntee revealed.

“That led us down the path to education so really good scrum coaches like Marcus Horan are working with all our age grade props.”

Feek is assisted in Leinster by John Fogarty, Séamus Twomey, Derek Dowling and Philip Horan. In Munster, Conor Twomey and Horan work with Colm McMahon, Peter Malone and McCarthy.

In Connacht, it’s McFarland, Peter Bracken, Mick Finlay, Ambrose Conboy and Davie Henshaw, while Clarke is joined by Bryan Young in Ulster.

Massive work
“There is massive work being done on the ground now,” McEntee added. “We have indentified our under-18, 19 and 20s props so post-interpros they will get weekly coaching as well.

“It will take time but you can see the benefits already.”

Wigglesworth, however, did confirm a performance director, responsible for the entire professional game in Ireland, much like Rob Andrew in the English RFU, is still being actively sought.