Scrum analysis: Brisbane Test - Green and Gold Rugby

Scrum analysis: Brisbane Test

Scrum analysis: Brisbane Test

In the lead up to this first Wallabies versus England test in Brisbane, Dan Cole the England tight head spoke about how his side had completely re-built their scrum from the ground up.

England undoubtedly came out on top of the refereeing points decision in Brisbane, winning three penalties to one with a Yellow Card on Scott Sio to boot. Joe Marler wasn’t there, but just how different was the England scrum?

Let’s have a look at the scrum analysis leading up to and including Sio’s card to see.


35:00 England THP Cole penalised for hinging

It takes an age until the first scrum but here it is.

In some ways this is an easy article because there are actually only two types of scrums in it.

This first type we see the most and here are its key characteristics:

  1. Note the angle between Cole’s (near side England prop) thighs and his back. It’s an acute angle because he’s essentially absorbed all of Sio’s forward momentum by hinging – hence the penalty. Also remember how it pops his bum into the air as it happens.
  2. Note how Cole’s bind changes from impact to collapse. It goes from long to short and pulling Sio down and in.
  3. Note Sio’s left foot – it stays planted from the engagement and doesn’t chase up.

It’s all very straight forward and a carbon copy of what Cole did against Sio in the world cup pool match; Cole knows Sio and the Australian pack are anxious to win the engagement and he’s determined not to give that to them, even at risk of a penalty. This time it goes against him.


39:42 Sio penalised for collapsing scrum

Just four minutes later we have a carbon copy, even though the angle of the camera is from the top of the scrum.

Again, note Cole hinging back. Note how Sio’s left foot doesn’t move and as a result he is over-balanced forward (extended). This makes it easy for Cole’s right bind to pull Sio down and in. What’s different though is this time the referee team penalise Sio for collapsing, not Cole.


51:04 Australia penalised for wheeling scrum

We don’t always look at reset scrums for the storyline, but this is an exception. Here’s the reset scrum before the wheel.

Seen that before? That’s right, same as the previous two.

Poite has been put in a corner – he can’t keep having the scrum collapse or someone’s going to have to pay. He’s clearly hovering over who to blame though – it’s been one penalty apiece. So he re-sets.

If Poite is in a quandary, so is Sio. He’s trying to stay square and go forward, but by doing so he’s being dropped to the dirt. If he doesn’t go forward he loses the engagement, and if he chases his left foot up too far in an effort to balance better, he either drives too early or sets himself up to go backwards later.

This is where the second type of scrum appears, and it’s again familiar from the World Cup – just that it’s using Mako Vunipola as a protagonist at loose head, not Joe Marler.

It’s the bore and wheel. Vunipola monsters Holmes from the side (note how he drops his bind to do so) destabilising the tight head anchor of the Wallaby scrum.

Cole doesn’t drop Sio, but instead holds him and together with the rest of the England pack walks around the Aussie loose head – Sio is the one player who stays relatively still.

While Poite is clearly confused, you can tell which side walks the scrum around by looking at the final frames of the gif. Which of these two packs below looks like it’s trying to go sideways?

walking around

England haven’t actually done this to fox a walk around penalty, they’ve done it to simulate dominance over Sio; while from above we can see Sio is the pin in the wheel, to the ref at ground level it can look like the scrum coming through Sio’s side.

The effect England want is for Poite to think that first Sio has gone down, and then after the reset he’s gone backwards.

And the plan comes together in the very next scrum


53:40 Sio Yellow Carded

First, the reset that Cole drops; watch him drop back and in.

Poite has had enough. He warns the two to keep the scrum up, and clearly has an eye on Sio.

Which sets us up perfectly for the bore and wheel:

Note the height of Sio and how far forward his foot is compared to the first scrums. He’s now paranoid about being dropped by Cole.

Instead, Vunipola comes through the side of Holmes and the whole England pack drives through onto Moore and a poorly balanced Sio, who move backwards and sideways under the pressure.

Job done by England and it’s bye bye Sio.


So what?

At this point you can choose your own adventure – you can rant about the blatant illegality of the England pack and a misguided referee team (whinge), or you can join the queue of those lining up to blame it on Sio’s inexperience. I’ll leave that to you.

For England, they must surely be high-fiving on a plan that could not have worked better.

For the Wallabies, they’ll no doubt be looking at personnel changes that you would think would make it difficult for Cole to keep playing the same trick. They’ll also be working on getting back to a tighter drive that shears Vunipola off should he decide to angle out through the bore and wheel.

Bring on Melbourne.

  • Patrick

    Love this analysis. Let’s hope we can turn the tables in Melbourne!

    • PiratesRugby

      Agree that the analysis does the author credit. If Poite had nailed the poms for the first wheel, it would have stopped and the packs would have scrummages properly for the rest of the game.
      I don’t think the Melbourne test will be the place where the Aussie pack can assert scrum dominance. The problems with the surface at AAMI park are well known. The ground has improved as the season has gone on but it is still not stable. Two big Test packs are going to churn it up pretty quick.

  • Hambone

    Finally brought myself to watch replay last night, and after scolding sio on the night with a hefty set of beer in the belly, I saw half the shenanigans that these geezas got upto, thought he actually went alright, so my apologies Scotty, and here’s to him getting some red hot tips from king LEDs to out work these Pricks upfront in melb. I’m sure they have been under the ledesma thumb hard all week and relishing in it aswell, time to bring the P.A.I.N.

  • gypsyspud

    So how is loose head supposed to prevent getting caught in these shenanigans?

    • Haz

      He sets with his feet further forward so that the TH can’t lean on him and force him down.

      Cole did exactly what any other International class TH prop would have done and ruthlessly exposed a very large deficiency in Sio’s technique.

  • LoveThePoop

    Great stuff!! But would love it if you put this article to the egg chaser guys and give them a chance for rebuttal

  • Pedro

    Great final paragraph Matt, part of me accepts the superiority of the English pack (by tactics if nothing else) but part of me still wants to whinge about the illegality of it. Great analysis as always, it’s rare and interesting to learn of the dark arts.

  • Pedro

    Also love this from Eddie Jones about the legality of the English scrum:

    Meanwhile, Jones said: “Every side I coach, I coach them to play legally. We want to play legally, we want to scrum straight, we want to scrum square and we want to scrum at them. It’s an area we want to dominate. We’ll make sure our scrum is well prepared, we’ll be ready for any tricks the Australians have. Dan’s been around the traps. He knows what to expect.”

    It’s a brilliantly nuanced comment.

  • Fatflanker

    “We want to play legally, we want to scrum straight, we want to scrum square and we want to scrum at them. It’s an area we want to dominate.”

    But we can’t, so we’ll cheat.

    More great analysis Matt.

  • Walter

    Please. It’s international level rugby. Instead of pissing into their pie about the ‘illegalities’ of top-level scrummaging, Australia should just figure their shit out. They can start by finding the right personnel and follow by leaving the cry baby tears at home with mommy where they belong.

    • RugbyReg

      have a read of the article next time Walter

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Don’t come on this site and be a cock mate. There’s plenty of English sites that will let you do that. If you think the article is wrong rebut it but don’t be the whinging Pom we hear so much about

      • Haz

        Fair chat on him being a cock but I’ve been reading this site since before the lions tour and the Poms definitely don’t have the monopoly on whinging…

  • Nutta

    Good write-up Matt. Yes we can whinge or we can tighten up and fix it for ourselves. It is good for the general public to learn the generalities of such things. There are ways to stop this shite. It actually isn’t hard. However it takes time, whole of pack commitment and experience to perfect and that’s where The Filth have it over us. 18mths of catchup doesn’t fix 15yrs of neglect so tighter, lower and tougher we must go… For now…

    • Callum

      Look kid, stop calling the English “The Filth”. It’s a rather pointlessly offensive nickname. Try and up the humour level to about the like of Hoiles. However your comment on the experience and group effort needed to adapt to different scrums and refereeing interpretations is a valid point.

      • Steve

        I felt it both appropriate and quite amusing

      • Who?

        I know you’re relatively new here, but it’s funny to hear someone calling a bloke who’s spent longer in the front row than half of those on this site have been alive ‘kid’. :-)

        • Callum

          Sorry i just assumed someone using that terminology was a young teenager.

        • Who?

          Maybe on your side of the world, but none of the kids in my club use that word. It’s somewhat antiquated. :-)
          And hey, no need to apologize to me. :-)

      • Will

        I used to play for Brothers in Brisbane – we were known as the filth and loved it…

        • John Tynan

          Filthy Fish Eating Bastards to use the full name!

      • A80

        They’re obviously the smaller person in their Avatar.

      • John Tynan

        A bit thin skinned old mate. At the moment, you’re The Filth. AT other times, it’s any Brothers Rugby Club. The All Blacks are The Darkness. Think of it as a term of endearment, ya bastard…

        • Tomthusiasm

          I love The Darkness, great band.

    • Gegonago

      Filth? its scares me that people as bigoted as you are allowed to breed

      • John Tynan

        Jeez, I’d hate to see you run into a real bigot…

      • wilful

        It scares me that people as humourless as you are on the GREEN AND GOLD RUGBY website.

      • Who?

        What scared your forebears was that my people managed to breed, in spite of your people’s best efforts. What’s even worse is that my statement means I could be from anywhere inside 25% of the world’s population base.
        There’s nothing racist in what’s said. No one’s complaining about ethnic origins, only labelling a NATIONAL team a sleighting name. It’s far less racist than calling a person a shackle dragger, which is a dig at ethnic and socioeconomic origins. A dig at origins that aren’t actually applicable to many (I’d wager most) Australians. Though, in all honesty, many out here these days consider having ancestors who were forcibly removed from the British Isles a badge of honour…
        It would be equally fair if you were to call the Wallabies “The cheats” (referring to the misguided belief many have that the Wallabies deliberately drop the scrum). That’s not racist. That’s referring to a team, not a nation, or, more importantly, a racial group.

  • Pfitzy

    It was smart work by Cole – as a prop, I applaud it. The sneaky bugger. Its up to us to take the ref out of the game in these situations.

  • idiot savant

    Genius Matt. The hinging and pulling down is so obvious in these images yet more difficult to read in real time on the ground. Just shows how important it is to stay up when the ref doesnt have a clue.

  • Klaus

    Agree with this and was yelling at the game that Coles arm was perpendicular the whole bloody game. BUT You can actually blame Moore as well for also allowing Cole to get between him.

  • Darrin Briggs

    Yes great write up Matt. Watching the scrum during the game I could see that Cole was rolling his shoulder, hinging thus making Sio collapse. Its a pity that all the Refs don’t know what they are looking at! Sio should never have been sent off! Moore needs to take more control and show some leadership at scrum time when this is happening and instruct the scrum to counteract this tactic. We have to get a lot more craftier in the Front Row…we play it all too straight.

    • Mullins84

      All of the side views show that Sio’s feet are placed about 6inches behind those of Moore and Holmes to start with. No matter how crafty Cole is as a prop, there is no adequate substitution for good positioning. If he had kept the line with the rest of the front row then even without Cole taking “the hit”, he would still have had a solid foundation to remain up from, and it would have highlighted Cole’s shoulder rolling.

  • Gottsy

    Definite shenanigans, but we have to get much better at playing the ref. Must have been difficult and confusing for sio, earning the first penalty just to have it flipped for pretty much the exact same thing on the proceeding scrums. That’s rugby though, we just have to learn how to deal with a ref that isn’t going to give us anything.
    Saying that- why is illegal scrummaging still being rewarded?

  • BadAtCricket

    I have a different interpretation on the first two scrums. For my money, Sio’s aim at 35:00 was to make it look like Cole was dropping. He leaves his feet too far back and drags down and Cole ends up getting done for hinging. The next scrum, Cole is ready for it. If you were to show the side view of that one at 39:42 you’ll see that Sio again leaves his feet behind and tries to flop. But Cole takes the initial bend and then just hangs in there there holding Sio off the ground. You can actually see in that overhead shot how Sio hasn’t made it to the ground. Clear penalty against Gold and now the officials are wondering about the first one too.

    Let’s not kid ourselves that there wasn’t a plan on Chieka’s part to “paint a picture” to the ref. It’s just that Sio wasn’t good enough to execute it properly.

    • Who?

      I don’t think Ledesma has enough subtlety to want to paint a picture – he just wants to stay up long enough to outlast the other team and walk forward…
      And I don’t think you can argue that a very young LHP like Sio is going to go out there and outfox as experienced an operator as Dan Cole. I’ve seen what Cole consistently did pinged as ‘not taking the hit’ previously. And the Wallabies under Ledesma have regularly struggled with staying on the right side of not pushing off the mark.
      It’s a good contest, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that the Wallabies are smarter in the scrum than they are. After all, it took a concerted campaign by several online journos (Matt and Brett McKay – Dwyer wasn’t the source, he was just a broadcaster) to paint the picture last year.

      • BadAtCricket

        Last year the tactic was to walk the entire scrum sideways to make the ref think that England were running around (coupled with the media campaign). There’s smarts in the Aussie backroom, but Cole was too gnarly for Sio’s slightly clumsy efforts there.

        • Who?

          Read the post above again – the smarts didn’t come from the Aussie backroom, they came from the press! Just ask Mr Rowley yourself – think he’ll be pretty quick to confirm that he doesn’t have any special ties to the ARU…

    • Brendan Hume

      Sio gets to the mark, Cole doesn’t hold the weight and Sio goes past the mark which makes him look overextended. He’s set up to drive at the mark. In no scrum did England try to hold the weight and drive straight and square. Shit tactics make a rubbish spectacle.

      • BadAtCricket

        Show me the bit in the Law book that says that you have to hold your opponent up off the ground. If Sio can’t support his own weight then it’s a failure of his technique. Nothing else.

        • Who?

          It doesn’t say you have to hold them up, it says you have to be in a position to drive and drive straight. England didn’t, at the hit, take a position to hold the weight – pushing forward – at the mark. Cole was consistently not taking the engagement.

        • BadAtCricket

          There’s nothing in the Law book about “taking the engagement” either. I would argue (and indeed I am) that Sio is the one not “in a normal position to make a forward shove” because his legs are so far behind him that they are completely extended. That fails the “weight firmly on at least one foot” test too.

        • Who?

          There’s nothing in the lawbook about not taking the engagement because no one’s stupid enough not to do it. Until the introduction of the new laws, there’s been no advantage to gaming the set. It is, however, in the Game Management Guidelines, and has been penalized at test level.

        • BadAtCricket

          I presume that’s the *Australian* Game Management Guidelines for domestic, community level rugby? There’s no published IRB GMG. And you’ll note that Cole makes the required “short horizontal movement” and that Sio is not “able to maintain body shape and pressure on the opposition scrum” :)

        • Who?

          The penalty for ‘not taking the hit’ originated from an interpretation the then Law 20.1 (k), which is now 20.1 (j). That was before the new scrum engagement sequence, and, given the power of the hit back then, it was something of an unreasonable penalty. I spoke with James Hanson in late 2013. He talked about the power of the engagement of the BAILs scrum. Said it was like nothing he’d ever experienced before, coming from over a metre back (a clear breach of the ban on charging the scrum in Law 20.1 (i)), and it did his neck.
          Under the new sequence, it’s more justified. It’s still not specifically set out in the laws. But it’s expected that each team will scrum on the call of Set. An example is the following from the RFU:
          – On the call of ‘Set’ the Front Rows should engage and hold. There should be no drive/push on or after the “Set” call. Sanction for an early push/drive: Free Kick.
          I’ve found comments from multiple refs online – including this year – indicating they are finding teams who are taking advantage of the requirement not to push through the mark by gaming the Set, not ‘taking the hit’.
          You certainly could argue that Sio’s guilty, but I’d argue that his actions are the effect, not the cause.
          To get back to the origin of the conversation, you say you don’t have to hold the other team up. That’s correct. But you do have to be in a position to drive, and whilst Sio wasn’t, I’d argue the cause is Cole not engaging, therefore he’s the one I’d ping. But that’s me, and that’s not to say that Poite was wrong not to penalize him. It’s me looking at what Sio needs to learn to counter.
          And I think the decision to drop Sio is wrong. Joubert’s a different ref to Poite, there’s no guarantee that he’ll ref things the same way. And you’ve got to give the young bloke some instruction, and a chance to demonstrate he’s learned. Dropping him doesn’t do that. It’s Ledesma’s failing as much as it’s Sio’s failing.

  • Assistant TMO

    Shock horror the opposition cheat and the Wallabies Angels! The forces and movements in scrums are so variable that anyone with some knowledge can mount a case either way.

    Simple fact is that if Sio has to scrum with his feet so far back and therefore (over)extended he is a high risk of being unbalanced by a slight shift. And then the call can go either way.

  • Dan Anscombe

    That my Aussie friends are the dark arts in full action.

    Sios feet are to far behind to support a lot of the weight that Cole is putting his neck under. Nothing illegal there, a video wont show the full story of the pressures coming through. Sio found out.

    Good luck this Saturday.

  • Who?

    Good article Matt.
    Worth noting the first scrum didn’t actually happen, because England wouldn’t pack where Poite was telling them to pack. So the Wallabies took the free kick.
    I’d argue, though, that Cole didn’t actually hinge in the scrums after the first one. He retained his feet, though he did angle in and pull Sio in and down (it’s not just where the bind is, it’s also the angle of the elbow). Something Sio couldn’t counter because he was overextended (not the first time he’s been found out in that way).
    I called England walking round, and Mako boring on Holmes during that scrum live. It was also the only scrum in Sio’s time out there that Cole kept his right elbow above the horizontal (i.e. not angling down, pulling Sio down). And that’s what sealed the deal in Poite’s mind. It should’ve been very predictable to the Aussies that it was coming, too – you don’t infringe in front of the ref. So, with the ref standing next to Vunipola, he’s not going to bore in. With the ref gone, he could angle in. Whilst Cole was going to drive on that one, with the support of the entire English pack. Why we didn’t realize that is beyond me.
    I don’t blame Sio for being inexperienced. I do question what Ledesma’s telling him, in terms of how to combat the issue. I don’t blame the English for playing the games they did – they didn’t collapse (after the first scrum), they managed to appear to be going forward, that’s how you win penalties. I don’t think Poite got it completely right – especially pulling a card in the fifth scrum of the match (though Cheika could’ve been smarter and hooked Sio) – but he generally rewarded the scrum appearing to go forward. So we can’t complain too much about that.
    The question is, now that we know that Sio winning the engagement/hit means Cole’s in a decent position to drop him, are we going to continue chasing so far on the hit? Perhaps the goal should be to set up less extended,and lower. To exascerbate Cole’s hinging. I don’t know – I’m not a guru. But there’s got to be a tactic that works against what Cole’s doing, and surely, if he’s worth his salt, Ledesma’s telling Sio about it.

    • bruce bendall

      It was also the only scrum in Sio’s time out there that Cole kept his right elbow above the horizontal (i.e. not angling down, pulling Sio down).
      Look at the videos in the article!
      In the videos Cole’s elbow is higher than Sios.

      • Who?

        Please explain to me how a Loose Head’s elbow is supposed to be higher than a Tight Head’s elbow?! A Tight Head is to bind on the back or side – below the armpit, not on the arm. A Loose Head is to bind on the Side. So, the LHP’s arm is ALWAYS under the THP’s arm. If the THP’s arm isn’t above the horizontal, then it’s almost impossible for the LHP not to have his arm pulled down.

  • bruce bendall

    in all the scrums shown Sio’s elbow drops, which looks like he is pulling down. If he isn’t pulling down then keep the elbow up so it doesn’t look like he is!

    • Haz

      As the referees say – it’s about painting a good picture for them

  • overextendor

    Sio is overextended – his feet are too far back, and when they engage he is offbalance. The angle on cole’s thighs shows he is supporting his own weight.

    the fact sio’s feet are not moving is a sign of fault not innocence. On every single angle you can see sio is overextended compared to cole. Cole isnt hinging he just cannot support sio who is completley offbalance.

    Also think the “bore” from mako is a result of holmes aiming in to seperate hartley & mako, look at holmes’ initial angle, which brings mako round, and how holmes & moores shoulder overlap at the set up.

    • Who?

      Not arguing that Holmes was perfectly straight, but the wheel was definitely on from England – look at the synchronization of their locks and 8 as they went sideways. Beautifully coordinated. Very well coached. Clearly a pack mentality (I’m trying really hard to avoid sounding sarcastic or cynical here- it was genuinely well done).

      • Joy

        Genuinely well done cheating!

    • Joy

      “Cole isnt hinging he just cannot support sio who is completley offbalance.”

      I think you have overextended, “overextendor”.

      How do you explain Cole’s bind slipping down to Sio’s bum and contributing to his collapse? This shows intent.

      “the fact sio’s feet are not moving is a sign of fault not innocence.”

      The fact that Sio’s feet aren’t moving shows he is trying to comply with the intent and spirit of the laws of the game, That is, a safe and steady platform to provide a fair contest when the half feeds the ball. England developed these concepts but for a hundred years has repeatedly shown it wants nothing to do with them on the field.

      “Also think the “bore” from mako is a result of holmes aiming in to seperate hartley & mako”

      Aussies might sledge but cheating is not a national characteristic. Think “fair go” or “fair dinkum”. Any Kiwi will will agree with that,

      • Haz

        Look at the second gif

        It appears that Cole is in fact holding Sio off the floor after he’s tried to go down. Making it an easy decision for the refs.

        • Who?

          Which gif are you looking at?! IN all of them, other than the wheeled scrum, Cole’s hand is halfway along Sio’s tricep! Holding someone up requires the shirt to be pulled up, not down.

    • mikado

      Spot on – Sio’s legs are fully locked out making him completely unstable.

    • The Ardent B’Stard

      Sio is so overextended in examples 1 and 2 that he has no ability to react or adjust if his opposite does anything.
      Poor technique – deserved to get served.

  • This is pretty dubious. You’ve mentioned Sio’s foot placement but haven’t acknowledged the role this played in the collapsed scrums or the fact it resulted from poor set up. You don’t mention that Sio was completely extended before the ball was put in. You mistaken effect for cause, for example stating Cole’s bind changes from long to short and causes Sio’s collapse when in fact Cole’s hand clearly remains on the same part of Sio’s shirt. You’ve highlighted Vunipola’s angle while failing to identify Holmes’ – which is angled in at Hartley. You’ve incorrectly assumed that a scrum that wheels is being wheeled – sounds daft, but the two aren’t the same. If one prop gains the ascendancy against his opposite while the two on the other side remain equal the scrum will turn. You’ve called it the bore and wheel, but in fact Cole is marching forward while both Holmes and Vunipola are turned in – you’re on giff suggested Holmes initiated that angle. Sio, while being forced backwards, hinges. Hence the yellow.

    • A80

      Thanks for that. I don’t know enough about scrums to know who is right but just as I can see the picture Matt Rowley paints so I can see yours. Anyway Eddie Jones said only yesterday that we always look to scrum legally and if you can’t trust an Australian who can you trust?!

      • gladstonekinnoul

        Ha, ha!

    • Who?

      Sio was overextended before the ball was fed, but he wasn’t on ‘Bind’. Which means that the overextension happened on the ‘set’, when Cole chose not to drive forward as far as Sio did.
      Cole’s bind remained on Sio’s shirt in the same place, but shirts aren’t bodies. They move on bodies. The bind started long. It pulled to short after the set. Same part of the shirt, but suddenly the leverage is on Sio’s shoulder, not just on his back.
      Some are calling it cheating. I don’t. Angling, yeah, that’s not acceptable, but only Sio is innocent of creating an angle in the scrum. His infractions were elsewhere. And the boring didn’t create the issues. The issues were created by Cole – successfully – as mentioned elsewhere (including by an Englishman on here) – setting up so that he could retain his feet, but Sio had no capacity to do anything other than drop. He was overextended and couldn’t push up, he couldn’t drive against Cole (because Cole gave him nothing to drive against). It was clever gamesmanship, and he won.

      • Hotdog

        I was a good prop and I can tell you categorically that when you’re feet are that far back like Sio you can’t keep your side up on the engagement. Sio was definitely at fault for the collapse.

        • Who?

          So, you were a good prop. Under the old engagement sequence, I presume?
          I completely agree that you can’t scrum well with your feet that far back. However, Sio was balanced before the set (engagement). So what changed? He overextended during/after the set. He didn’t chase his feet. If you chase your feet, you should be penalized for an early shove (the ball’s not in yet). So what needs to happen? Cole needs to engage! If you can show me a single shot where he gave Sio a shoulder to push against, or where he wasn’t set well back over his feet (remember, he’s not meant to move his feet either, and I can assure you, he hasn’t moved them forward), I’ll be shocked.
          The issue here isn’t Sio’s body position being wrong – we agree on that. The issue is why it’s wrong. I say it’s wrong because Cole was gaming the Set, and Sio wasn’t good enough to adjust. A failure in coaching.
          You’ll note I’ve not once anywhere said that the penalties were wrong, with the arguable exception of the walkaround penalty, in spite of Cole not being properly square. You’ll also note I’m more than happy to concede that Holmes and Vunipola were also not always square. And you’ll note that I’ve said that Cole won penalties (the walkaround and the final penalty) by driving straight (he was straight, the rest of the team, not so much).
          If the Wallabies had behaved as Cole did in gaming the Set on Saturday night, there’s a better than even chance they’d have been penalized (rightly) for not taking the hit (on the engagement). We’ve seen that under the current laws. The current laws require (though they’re not enforced as religiously as Brian Ashton intended) the scrum to be square and steady before the ball is fed. So, pushing past the mark is a FK then P, and not taking the hit is similarly given a FK, to ensure that teams don’t try and game a FK/P the other way. Poite allowed Cole to get away with it, and Cole took full toll. It’s not the first time Sio’s been found out in that way, and he needs to be given tools to counter the tactic.

        • Hotdog

          If you look at Cole’s feet and leg position it is text book prop positioning for a strong body. The new laws do not allow a huge hit on engagement which is something Sio was trying to do hence his poor leg positions. Sio has been dropped. Speaks volumes.

        • Who?

          I agree Cole has – except in the first scrum where he hinged – a strong body position, albeit a rather high one. Though he’s also not that straight. Which meant Sio couldn’t find his position. It was just clever setup by Cole.
          The new laws don’t allow a huge hit on the Set because there’s not much gap. But that doesn’t mean many teams don’t try for it. And we’ve got an Argentine scrum coach. I’ve seen the Pumas fall completely afoul some refs, with binding, direction of push… I really think that Ledesma’s attitude – from my distant position – is that we hit hard, win the set (to get ourselves into the best possible position to push), then push until the other team falls over. It’s a very basic, power-based philosophy.
          It works well when the other team tries the same. But what happens when you’ve got a team that doesn’t want to fight for that space on the set? That is happy to scrummage a bit higher (take a look at how low the Pumas set up to scrum – it makes it impossible to hook, and forces them to use the Bajada and walk over the ball. Which was a major point of contention back in 2013 when the new sequence was introduced), and knows how to force the height? Well, we’ve just seen it. What happens is that older guys, guys who’ve been around, have to rely on their strength, technique, and knowledge bank to get out of it. But young guys – guys who are still learning the trade (let’s be honest, a 23 year old prop? He’s still effectively a toddler!) – get found out.

  • gladstonekinnoul

    Looking at the comments below confused me.Here’s me thinking that we poms had the monopoly on whingeing!

  • adastra32

    You call it hinging; I call it getting over-extended “for effect”. What really matters is what the ref calls it. And he called out Sio. Both packs will be working on new stratagems for the coming weekend….

  • CMJS

    I think the Australian coaches know their scrum is too weak to scrum head on against England, so Sio is deliberately overextending so that he could collapse his side without injury (which he does every time, until warned), avoid the competition, and try to create the narrative of Cole hinging – which initially works with Poite. Sio goes down first, Cole has no choice but to ‘hinge’, by that time the offense has already been committed by Sio, but Poite just sees Aussie fingers pointing at Cole’s bum.

    It takes Poite about 55 minutes to realise whats going on, which causes him to warn Sio. This is the first time the Australian scrum is forced to compete directly with the England scrum; surprise surprise, the Aussie scrum turns into powderpuff & Sio picks up a card. That’s not a coincidence. Cole doesn’t need to cheat his way past Sio, he can win that battle fairly. Sio on the other hand can only cope with Cole by doing exactly what he tried to do. It got him pinged, and no matter how much the Aussie media tries to repair Sio’s reputation & damage Dan Cole’s repuation ahead of the rest of the series, I don’t think Sio will be starting the next two tests.

    We already know the Australian coaches will use any means to win – including trying to influence the ref through orchestrated media campaigns. This piece is just another part of the team trying to compete in the scrum – off the field, because they know the Aussie pack can’t compete in the scrum on the field.

    • John Tynan

      Really not sure how you get to those conclusions with any kind of logic. Seems obvious that if scrumming straight and square is the measure, it’s the English that are reluctant to do this…

      • CMJS

        Well, it’s pretty simple, in every scrum Sio started with his feet too far back & immediately dropped to his knees like a backalley prostitute. That is until Poite told him off; then he corrected his position, took the engagement for the first time in the match instead of collapsing – and when he did, he got blown away so badly that the referee sent him off to reflect on his indiscretions.

        Ask yourself, if Sio was intending to scrum properly at the start, why did it take a warning after 55 minutes for him to adopt a stronger body position? He’s an international class prop, he doesn’t need a referee to remind him what his body shape should be, so the answer is likely because he knew full well what he was doing. Of course when Sio was forced to engage at the scrum rather than collapse, he got stuffed so badly that he ended up with a card – probably why he persued a tactic of trying to cheat his way past Cole to begin with.

        Theres quite alot of irony in Aussie whinging about ‘England cheating’ actually being the result of Sio trying & failing to dupe Poite. Sio tried selling Poite a dummy, but unfortunately for him the only people who brought it are the Aussie media, who couldn’t produce impartial analysis if thier lives depended on it.

        • John Tynan

          I take your point about Sio appearing to be over extended, and on air it did show up. But I’m having one of those “agree to disagree” days. I prefer to see who ends up where and no international grade prop should end up with his backside waving in the air and shoulders lower than hips, pointing 45 degrees into the centre of the scrum. Coles changed his bind a number of times to leverage off Sio’s elbow and turn him in, or then took a long bind on the wheel. Watch Hartley’s bind change on the wheel as well. A plan well executed, and you do it as long as you get away with it.
          There’s a lot of flippant “whingeing” comments that disregard the purpose of a forum – to discuss. I know, I know, I’ve got a naive view of how the interwebs works….
          Not only did Sio get schooled by a quality prop, Poite got hoodwinked. For mine, that’s job well done to Coles.
          There’s a reason why the league vs union comparisons rely on the “chess vs checkers” cliche – and The Dark Arts is one of life’s complexities that will generate comment after comment after comment. I personally wouldn’t have it any other way. Except for a reversed penalty count. I would have that the other way.
          As a sidebar on Poite, my pre-match discussion with my 12yo when he asked about the ref was that he tends to make his mind up about dominance early and there’s no changing it. Another case that night IMO.

        • CMJS

          Sorry mate, I agree with you on some of that but Poite made his mind up that Cole was hinging, and then changed it later as he figured out what was unfolding. You can’t claim that is evidence of him deciding early.

          One thing I’m not trying to deny is that all front rows cheat – even Aussie ones. Cole can only play what is in front of him, and that is an overextending Sio whos trying to avoid Cole’s power. Yes, he does ‘stuff’ to exploit Sio.

          Where I object is that this “analysis” focuses solely on English transgressions to the point of ignoring far greater transgressions by the Aussie front row. In the same pictures that GAGR claims English boring in, you can see the Aussie front row at an angle too. And of course where Cole is ‘hinging’, it ignores everything Sio is doing to cheat his way to victory.

          So according to this article, only one side cheats. I’m not arguing that England cheat because there’s already too much focus on that, I’m just trying to provide an alternate view and a bit of balance.

        • John Tynan

          On the Green and Gold Rugby website you mean? ;)

        • McWarren

          We’ll leave the fiction to you and Fleet Street my friend. On G&GR we deal in gold facts.

        • CMJS

          One eyed gold “facts”.

        • Haz

          His first two decision were in favour of Aus, he then changed his mind due to what was unfolding in front of him. Not sure you can continue to say that he makes his mind up and just sticks with it …

        • John Tynan

          First scrum was 35 minutes in. I think there was one each way for the first two. But anyway, I stand by my own biases and tendencies to make my mind up! It is my internet given right to outrage!

        • Who?

          This is the point where you show your lack of understanding. The point where you say:

          Then he (Sio) corrected his position, took the engagement for the first time in the match…

          If someone’s overextending, it’s not because they’re not taking the engagement. In fact, arguably, the other guy’s not taking the engagement. A met engagement should see both props move forward roughly the same distance. Meeting in the middle. Both should be stretching roughly the same distance on the call of ‘bind’, both have to hold themselves up on ‘crouch’ and ‘bind’. So if only one of the two props is going from comfortable to overextended, and the other one’s going from comfortable to almost hinging, then it’s pretty clear one of them isn’t moving forward to take the hit. And it’s not the one who’s overextending.

        • CMJS

          No, Sio is too far back to support his own weight to begin with, Cole is effectively left trying to hold him up which results in his “hinging”, aka Sio cheating.

          Learn what you’re talking about before telling others they’re wrong.

        • Who?

          You’ve misunderstood what I said. Sio was NOT too far back to support his own weight, because if he were, he would’ve fallen over at the call of ‘Crouch’, and even moreso at ‘Bind’. So his position was fine. He was only overextended after ‘Set’, and that only happens when one of the two props moves significantly past the mark before the ball is put in.
          If the prop chases his feet on ‘Set’ before the ball is fed to continue to support a position well past the mark, then he should be penalized for pushing off the mark before the ball is fed. And the ball should not be fed until the scrum is square and steady. So, effectively, the ball cannot be immediately fed after the engagement, because it takes a moment to achieve square and steady. If you don’t agree with me, then you don’t agree with Brian Ashton, the eminent English hooker who wrote the current Scrum Engagement Sequence. Which, much to his publicly expressed dismay, is often not refereed correctly.
          If a prop doesn’t attempt to get square and steady at the mark, then clearly he’s playing games. Sometimes a prop won’t get to the mark, but there should be a clear attempt, and it shouldn’t be as consistent as it was.
          Look at the angle that Cole assumes every single time he sets up. He sets up with a long bind, slightly set to target Moore. On the set, he doesn’t attempt to win the engagement, he doesn’t even attempt to get forward to it. He instead continues to target Moore, adapting the angle, twisting his shoulder in to remove anything for Sio to push against. This leaves Sio overextended (because Cole hasn’t engaged) and pushing against nothing. Which means it’s easy for Cole to slide the bind up and push down with his right arm/shoulder to drop Sio to the deck.
          And fair play to Cole – he did it well. It’s not easy to drop your opponent without going down as well. He messed up the first time – he went to ground too, which was penalized for hinging, with his own hips well above his head. But the other times, he retained his feet.
          Did I say Cole was cheating? No. Did I say that anyone was cheating? No. To say that someone who managed to get themselves penalized off the park was cheating is simply wilfully morose. If Sio had any chance, it required him to stay square, steady, and up, not retreating and diving. As it stands, he only retreated in one scrum – the one where he was (rightly) penalized and (harshly) carded.
          But to accuse someone who’s losing the battle of cheating is an extraordinarily perverse statement. And to accuse someone of setting up overextended is also extremely uninformed. Because you simply can’t do it, whilst retaining your feet.

        • CMJS

          So all of that because you misunderstood what I said? Calm down mate, and apply some logic. Of course he can support his own weight pre engage. Never said he was overexended pre engage.

        • Who?

          I was calm, clear and logical. I didn’t resort to calling people cheats, let alone doing that immediately.
          You said “Sio is too far back to support his own weight to begin with.” Clearly he wasn’t. He was set up to meet Cole at the mark on the Set. It’s just that Cole was too wily to do that.
          That was a follow on from claiming that Sio hadn’t taken the Set all match, when in fact the reverse was true, and was in fact the very thing that created the problem of Sio’s overextension.
          You also said Cole is effectively left trying to hold Sio up. Show me one skerrick of evidence that proves that Cole’s so nice a bloke, other than the wheel scrum (where he kept his elbow up, rather than dropping it) and the final YC scrum (where he tried to get under Sio to drive him)?! What kind of prop would want to hold up their opponent? And how do you hold up your opponent when your hand is consistently pulling down, below his shoulder level?

        • CMJS

          Yeah, too far back to support himself, post engage, to begin with. So in the process of engaging, he goes into an unstable position.

          Stop trying to put words in my mouth to make your own argument.

        • Who?

          Maybe you need to be more specific with your wording. My wording is specific. Sio was fine, Cole didn’t attempt to get to the mark on the set, Sio was overextended, Cole used that to his advantage. You call Sio a cheat for being outplayed by Cole, without ever considering that Cole was always intending to do exactly what he did. Maybe you should celebrate and focus on the success of your TH, rather than trying to state our outplayed LH was trying to cheat?

        • FreddietheCapitalist

          Brian Ashton was both the coach of England and a scrum half, not a hooker. I think you’re referring to Brian Moore (ex-England hooker).

        • Who?

          You’re right – I always get those two mixed up! It was Moore who wrote the current scrum engagement sequence. Which was some extremely intelligent and logical work.

        • FreddietheCapitalist

          Agree with that.

        • Brendan Hume

          look at where the mark is… you make no sense.

    • McWarren

      Welcome to the discussion Eddie.

      • CMJS

        Aww bawlocks mate, I’ve been rumbled!

    • Toadflax

      Sorry – which Aussie coaches are you referring to – England’s Aussie coaches or Australia’s Aussie coaches. When will you antipodeans realise we are taking the p*ss and you are now run by Randwick Rugby Club

    • Seaweed

      Was that the Aussie scrum playing England in the RWC? The one that can’t compete on the field I mean?

      • CMJS

        Yup, GAGR article plus talking heads targeting Joe Marler pre game, then Aussie front row marching sideways to make it look like Marler was boring all game.

        If you want to talk about dark arts, we should talk about how both sides influence the ref – at least ours only play the game on the field.

        • Nearlyman

          Exactly. The Aussie scrum warns the word (and the ref) about boring in and then steps sideways at engagement to create the impression of illegal scrummaging by the opposition. England were savvy to this on Saturday and made sure that the Aussie front row was too extended to step! It was a very effective tactic, itself illegal, but necessary in the face of the front row sidestep that completely emasculated the England scrum at the world cup. I make that one all if you want to keep score on who cheats most effectively.

    • Joy

      What a puffed up load of bullshit.

      • CMJS

        Ahh, another Aussie whinger.

      • CMJS

        Whinge whinge whinge whinge, boo hoo, the nasty English cheat against the Australian angels (aka, the English beat us, we were so arrogant we didn’t think they’d be much of a challenge, quick, find an excuse – they must be cheating!)

        • harro

          Sounds like it’s your nap time mate

  • Unknown User

    It was an easy read live during the game. Poite is simply shit! Cole bends over like a Russian diplomat.

  • bruce bendall

    Perhaps someone can read this to Sio so we can see a scrum in time for the autumn international.

    • Nice resource.

      • bruce bendall

        The telling part in the guidance for Sio is the foot positioning (too far back) and the arm positioning (elbow right down). If he changes that, he would be less likely to be penalised because the scrum will collapse less.

  • Mica

    Interesting read. There is going to be a lot of conjecture on this one depending on what you are looking for.

    The two things that stand out for me is that Sio real needs to develop the capability to take a couple of small steps if necessary on the set so that he doesn’t end up in an over extended position if he wins the “hit” or the opposition TH doesn’t take the “hit”. One of the experienced props out there may like to shed some more detail on this (Nutta :)).

    The other thing is that the England pack are wily and are creating a lot of variation each time a scrum packs. This is creating uncertainty for everyone at scrum time. The two scrums before Sio’s yellow are a good example of this. The first scrum you can see the whole English scrum not take the set/hit and just act as a shock absorber (all going backwards about .5 to 1 meter). Put your mouse cursor on the picture at the start of the sequence and see how it ends up. Next scrum they go hard and are in a strong position at the start. This was the all or nothing play from England and with the uncertainty created previously the Wallabies weren’t sure whether to engage hard again and risk another collapse or engage with less vigor and end up compromised. It looked like they took the second option and you can all see how that unfolds.

    It ended up being a case of well foxed old chap and Australia just need to work out how to deal with this variability. I am sure Mario will have some ideas and it will be a good education for Sio.

    I do chuckle when I hear the comments of the Aussie scrum being powder puffs and the English scrum just being a beast. If the English scrum truly are the physically stronger scrum, it seems strange that they went so far back in the first scrum (prior to the yellow card) across the whole front row (and not just on Cole’s side) just because Sio had over-extended. Honestly I think that strength wise, they are pretty well matched.

    As it wound up I think Australia was just out pointed tactic wise and didn’t adjust to the referee. During the game when it was going wrong Moore needed to get the boys in and have the “if they do this then we do this chat” – There didn’t seem to be any of that from what I saw. Hopefully they’ll be wiser this weekend!!

  • Twashie

    The only blatantly wrong call in any of the scrums in my opinion is the one at 51.04. The footage clearly shows that England begin to push before they’ve fed the ball (led by Mako who angles in on Holmes, who’s angling on Hartley). Which leds to the scrum being pushed across the field. Sio tries to keep it going straight but Cole walks round. Penalty should have gone to the Wallabies.

    The other scrums above are 50-50 calls. The hinging v collapsing two scrums is a coin toss. Sio isn’t helping his situation by being slightly overextended. My major concern is is low bind on Cole. Cole is naturally going to be trying sink down on Sio. Sio is helping is cause by binding on the side of his jersey. If Sio binds up on Cole’s back it’s going make it much harder for him to be brought down. Take a look a Mako’s bind on Holmes to see this in action.

    The wheeling penalty that Sio got sin binned for is probably justified (although the yellow was rough). It could be argued that England hadn’t earned the right to legitimately wheel as I don’t see the scrum going straight forward.

    • Mullins84

      Wheeling penalty goes your way if you get the initial shove after the feed; you only need to get a foot and the ref will give it (“Why would the side going forward neutralise the advantage?”). Unfortunately we didn’t get a decent huff at it all game. Yes, Vunipola was boring in, but so was Holmes. Scotty should have known from juniors that having your feet back prior to engage means you will inevitably end on your face. Dan Cole is one of the best props in the game right now with the way he reads, and there’s no shame in being caught out by such a player.

      • Twashie

        Yep agree that if you get the initial shove and both both sides are going forward, than the ref will let you legally wheel it. It’s debatable that both sides were going forward before the wheel came on though. But it’s a 50-50 call and sometimes they go against you

  • muppet

    Great work Matt but ultimately it’s supposition for us outside the sheds, so if GAGR is truly the flag bearer for balance, how about hypothesese (?) through each team’s lens (i.e. gold view, white view)?

    • Who?

      GAGR’s clearly not the flag bearer for balance. I don’t know why anyone would ever think that.
      Truth has at least three sides. In a binary situation, there’s the protagonist’s view, the antagonist’s view, and the truth. Rugby’s nowhere near that simple, though it could be simplified down to the view that there’s still two primary viewpoints – ours and theirs. And it’s a question of which side of the truth – which lies between the two points – the ref picks. Because the ref’s never going to find the exact truth. Because no one can.
      I don’t think we need to hypothesize what the English see – they’re already on here talking it up! And Romain saw it their way on Saturday.

    • Kinda thought I did that. Saying that Cole didn’t drop those scrums is against what you can clearly see.

  • Ned Schneebley

    I love these technical analyses, cheers Matt.
    And here’s me thinking the front row are just a collection of knuckle draggers who only play that position because they can’t play anywhere else.

  • Elmer J. Fudd

    I usually really like these pages but I’m sorry, if the above proves anything at all it’s that Australia did not adapt to either their opposition or the referee. Why wasn’t the Wallaby captain in Poite’s ear right from the beginning if England were infringing so blatantly?

    I’m afraid Sio is a very strong man but technically he is a weak scrummager. That’s just a fact. The good thing is that he’s a young man and will improve.

    Sio has 17 Australia caps. Cole has 63 for England and 3 test caps for the Lions. Maybe it had something to do with one player being more experienced than the other rather than cheating and subterfuge which an experienced referee somehow completely missed?

  • Nearlyman

    Both scrums cheat. In this match England had a particular strategy to counter the Aussie scrum who completely fooled the ref at the World Cup. The Aussie scrum warns the world (and the ref) about boring in and then steps sideways at engagement to create the impression of illegal scrummaging by the opposition. It worked at teh world cup and England lost one of the only two weapons that might have stemmed the tide. It made no difference to the outcome because we were awful and you were great, but it was annoying to see a ref hoodwinked by such an obvious ploy.

    England were savvy to this on Saturday and made sure that the Aussie front row was too extended to step sideways! It was a very very effective tactic, itself borderline illegal, but necessary. I make that one all if you want to keep score on who cheats most effectively. In a straight up scrum (if one ever were to occur!) I think England just edge it – what do you think?

  • Alex

    They all just show poor footwork / body positions from the Australian scrum

  • RobC

    Thanks Matt. I think the first scrum was 14′. ENG were short-armed

    The 50′ scrum is actually pre-engage (early push) against ENG. But Poite missed it because he’d already gone on Sio’s side to inspect him

    • RobC

      Just checked, first scrum 12′

  • Pedro

    I don’t think it was Dwyer’s last year.


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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