Scrum analysis: How the Wallabies CRUSHED England

Scrum analysis: How the Wallabies CRUSHED England

Scrum analysis: How the Wallabies CRUSHED England

You don’t need me to tell you that the scrum was a major part of the Wallabies win on the weekend.

In the lead up to the match I talked about it, the pommy press talked about Bob Dwyer and myself talking about it, and it had a massive impact on the outcome of the match with the Wallabies winning 5 crucial penalties.

Below I’ll take you blow by blow through the Wallabies winning that battle. The upshot of it is that England died by the sword they lived by. Marler’s  boring in as part of a scrum tactic scrum coach Graham Rowntree is known for, was used against him by Australia through their use of real, not imagined, scrum dominance.

The result of these two pieces of scrum analysis is an uncovering of the shocking strategic risk England were taking; Scrum penalties weren’t part of the England game plan against Australia, it WAS the gameplan (as ex England coach Brian Smith pointed out here). But to get those penalties England wasn’t relying on the power that most associate with scrum, it was based totally on tricks and illusion. An illusion that Australia blew away, and with it England’s world cup hopes.

But enough of that, let’s get to it.

Scrum 1 – 1st minute

A free kick against the Wallabies for an early push on England’s ball. More on this later.

Scrum 2 – 2nd minute

Everything you need to know about England’s approach to the scrum in the match is borne out in the very first one.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.57

On initial setup everyone looks straight and square. Note that all flankers are fully bound to their second rows, except Chris Robshaw the England 7 whose bind is looking half baked as it barely rests on his lock.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 4.59

I wish I had motion to show you in this scrum, because one second later – before the ball is even fed –  Morgan the England 8 and his locks take two quick steps to the  left and re-set themselves. As you can see above they have aligned themselves so that their power will come up through Marler and into Kepu at about a 30 degree angle: the circles showing solid contact between shoulder and arse, the squares showing poor or no contact.

They have in effect made a mini scrum to bore in on Sekope Kepu through Marler. Robshaw no longer has the pretence of a bind on his second row.

Last week Brian Moore of the London Telegraph questioned me on this, saying that Marler as a loose-head was only following the tight-head in. This scrum setup shows this clearly to not be the case – it’s a deliberate (and impressively worked) team effort from England to bore in through Marler.

Why do they do it? Rather than taking the force of the opposition pack head on, England looks to

a) destabilise the opposition by neutralising their scrum anchor – the tight head prop – and direct him and his hooker into the centre of the scrum. They then

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.00

b) work with this momentum by walking the scrum around into the oppositions tight head, as you can see above. Like last week, look at the direction of the english feet versus their opposite numbers’.

The overall effect is a bit like turning a super-tanker around by pushing it from one angle and pulling it from the other – rather than hitting it from front on. Let’s call it the ‘bore and wheel’.

In the end the Wallabies manage to stay square enough to get the ball out of this scrum, but England’s intent is clear.

[Post-script: Neil Treacy at Irish site 42IE has also done an analysis of this scrum where he notes Kepu pulling Marler in to accentuate the above]

Scrum 3 – 5th minute

The Wallabies clear the ball, but the scrum seems to be going sideways (with no overhead shot). There’s a clear tussle going on which will slowly reveal itself more as the game goes on.

Scrum 4 – 11th minute

It’s an England put-in, but the scrum quickly drops after Youngs feeds it. The assistant referee calls that Sio has collapsed and Poite penalises Australia – England take 3 points.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.25

Looking closer, on engage the scrum looks stable. Both Cole and Sio are in good position, if anything Sio is angled slightly up.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.25.55 pm

As the ball is fed the Wallaby power comes on and they start move forward. Cole feels this and the Leicester man is true to their front row saying

“We go up, we go down but we don’t go back”

as he reefs Sio’s arm down to the floor (circled).
Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.26

Cole drops the scrum and has been folded like an accordion while doing so, but England get the penalty. What we’ve seen though the first clear sign of Wallaby go forward which will lay the platform for what’s to come.

Scrum 5 – 17th minute

Brown fumbles a Foley kick and it’s a Wallaby feed inside the England 22.
Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.46

Note the powerful and low position Kepu is in. The rest of the Wallaby tight five’s backs are ironing board flat. Marler is struggling to get under Kepu  – note his back angling down slightly and the fact he’s forced to bind onto Kepu’s shorts. His legs are well over-extended.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.48

Post feed the power comes quickly through the Wallabies and they start moving forward and left at a rate of knots. Wood, the England blind-side flanker, fears a quick pick up from Pocock so close the line and abandons Marler.Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.49

In big trouble, the rest of the England back five walk around towards Marler regardless and Kepu is popped out of the Aussie scrum under the pressure.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 7.51This has left England’s scrum open on the left while the Wallaby pack has managed to keep almost together and continue to move forward. Pocock picks up and play moves on, eventually Foley scores his first try some phases later.

In this scrum Poite has managed to avoid making a decision, but it’s clear that the Wallaby scrum has moved forward (and left) a good five metres.

Scrum 6 – 25th minute

In this scrum the tactic the Wallabies are employing to counterract the English ‘bore and wheel’ achieves its goal.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.56

Note the lines of power through the Wallabies as set up. Their goal is to get go forward and drive onto the England hooker and tight head, creating a 3 on 2 in the front row. This will make it difficult for Marler at the bottom of the scrum to get the same level of purchase in on Kepu as he’ll travelling backwards and away. If the Wallabies get the shove on, it’ll also make it very difficult for England to get walk around onto the Wallabies tight head (top of picture).Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 10.59

This is exactly what happens. The Wallabies go forward and across about three metres. Marler has been forced in, but note here that unlike other scrums in which he has been boring in, there is little or no power coming through his flanker and second row – there are no straight lines through him. Kepu is handling his angle well and going forward onto Youngs.

Poite sees the gold going forward and Marler coming in – penalty to Australia.

Scrum 7 – 28th minute

It’s not all Australia’s way just yet. In the next scrum only two minutes later, Youngs refuses to feed the ball as the Wallabies edge forward. Building on the previous free kick Poite awards England a penalty. As we’ve seen above, winning the engagement and moving forward is vital to the Wallabies counter-tactic on England. Can they get their timing right?

Scrum 8 – 32nd minute

This is the scrum that seals the deal for Poite on Marler.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.20.49 am

On set up Marler is already at an angle

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.21.26 amIn the drive, the Wallaby front row fights to stay square – Kepu contorts his body to do so, but the back five again drives up and to their left. This accentuates Marler’s angle and as the power comes on he spins in and the scrum collapses.

Polite does his famous windmill penalty reversal…

…and that’s it – his mind is made up.

The Wallabies go down town and score their second try from the ensuing lineout.

Scrum 9 – 43rd minute

Before you develop an inkling of sympathy for Marler, view the next scrum.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.40

Fresh back from a half time talk with scrum coach Rowntree, Marler sets up as above. He’s already angling in on Kepu. Note Robshaw’s lack of bind in his second row to enable him to lever around behind Marler.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 7.42

On the feed the angle increases even though in this scrum the Wallabies look to be trying to stay square. The scrum is pushed sideways, spins, ends messily and Genia executes one of his bombed box kicks.

Scrum 10 – 46th minute. Game over

The Wallabies are just outside of the England 22 and earn a free kick at their line-out. They opt for the scrum.

There’s no overhead of this scrum, but it looks to be a carbon copy of scrum 6 as England look to set up for a ‘bore and wheel’.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.01

Looking a the England 8’s and second row’s angling of their feet above, they are looking to put weight as an angle onto Kepu through Marler. Robshaw has popped up in defence, but look how far around he is.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.02

The Wallabies however re-adopt their tactic of driving forward and to their left through Youngs and Cole. They stay connected as an eight and eventually we see them splinter the England pack; Marler being sheered off the scrum due to his angling that has been exacerbated to destruction by the Wallaby drive.

It’s a penalty and the first points of the half to Australia.

marler poite straight

For Marler and the England scrum, it’s game over as Poite gives him a yellow card warning. He’s hooked immediately afterwards.

You live by the sword……


  • Pedro

    I’ve been waiting for this, just as good as the first one although I doubt you’ll get the same level of interest/disagreement from the English.

  • Whig

    Pure gold, Matt, pure gold!

  • southern macro

    never, ever, did i think i would be watching replays of Wallaby scrums but when we’re winning them they are a thing of beauty

    maybe us Aussie fans can learn to “love the scrum”

  • Hugh Cavill

    You can try all the crafty tactics you like, but brute force wins at the scrum every time. If England were going forward then I imagine Poite may have had a different reaction to the one he had.

    I don’t know how he’s done it, but Ledesma has turned our scrum into a juggernaut. Previously we didn’t have the power to combat shady opposition tactics, but now we just blow them out of the water as we did on Saturday.

    • Simon

      And our “finisher” scrum has been even more dominant. There’s been no real difference in our scrum regardless of which props start and which finish. The starting scrum has had the upper hand against everybody except the Boks and Pumas, against whom it’s had parity. Our finisher scrum, having a go at the second-string front row of the opposition, has dominated everybody. So not only has Sir Mario created one world-class scrum, he’s created two.

      • onlinesideline

        which just goes to show its not just about the props – its the whole pack – amazing to see

      • Vince

        I think you are on to something awarding Mario Ledesma a knighthood! Arise Sir Mario..
        Now it’s up to the government to formally recognise it, now that it’s back in fashion.

        • Simon

          I reckon Tones would have been all over it. But Malcolm would just give him a crappy Order of Australia, which nobody cares about. Sir Mario sounds much better than Mario Ledesma AO.

        • Who?

          I believe, given Malcolm pointed out a heap of other countries that have knighthoods without royal families, he should, in that spirit, retain the title system. Because it is so much more eminent to be known as ‘Sir’ or ‘Lady’ than ‘Joe Bloggs AO’.
          But for Senor Ledesma, maybe he could, in the French tradition (seeing the French still have a titular system, partially instituted by Napoleon!), be a Chevalier..?

        • RobC

          They have done the deed Check and Mario. I believe the other people who should share credit are:
          – Dan Palmer
          – Nick Stiles
          – Ben Serpell

        • Klaus

          I agree. The Reds scrum scrummages just like the wallabies are now which certainly would help. Who would have thought I would love scrums!!

        • RobC

          Scrums and depth are built at grassroot and pathways:

          – Palmer with Fisher and Jake White were the first to concentrate on a good scrum (2013 – its been v good since) even after transition to new rules

          – Stiles put together the best scrummaging regime in SR, in competition with Stormers (2014 onwards). Apr 23 2016, they will meet. Cant wait.

          – Serpell rehabilitated Scott Sio, Poey last year to ensure they are match fit and they stay that way

          – Mario Led got the Tahs to scrum properly (2015). But they dropped considerably when he went to WB camp.

          – Tahs need a solid full-time scrum coach. But for now they need a new CEO I suppose

        • jimmywilde

          if only…
          i would love to see liz knighting an argentine.

        • Who?

          Liz knighting an Argentine… For beating England. Could the awkwardness and irony be any greater?

    • Bernardo Faria

      Look at the last scrum, look how our forwards are still completely bound to each other even after the English have gone all over the place. I think thats probably Ledesmas biggest pet peeve: its all about the unity, not individual efforts.

    • stevo

      I think having two solid scrummaging locks has been a huge part of the improvement. Obviously our front rows have been great, but Simmons was packing as our tight head lock for most of the last two years, with Douglas coming in and taking that role from him and doing a great job (beyond all my *very cynical* expectations).

      • Who?

        My understanding is that Simmo was always a strong scrummager, the strongest scrummaging lock in the Wallabies. It’s worth noting that the last time Douglas packed with Simmons (i.e. before this year), he packed at Loose Head Lock. But there’s no doubt that Douglas is adding a lot there now. And the loose forwards aren’t meerkatting.

    • Tommy9

      “I don’t know how he’s done it” !?! Thats clear from your previous statement that “brute force wins every time” which Ledesma and the Wallabies have proven is clearly not true! You don’t coach brute force, you coach techniques and tactics!!! I highly doubt they have achieved this improvement in 3 months with a strength and conditioning coach!!! I think we have always had the brute force which was being rendered useless by superior tactics and techniques… but Ledesma has provided that to us now.

  • Roscoe Tims aka Lance Free

    I’ve been waiting for this scrum since 1999 …

  • Simon

    Thanks for this. I was looking forward to rewatching all the scrums, particularly the ones in the last 20 or so when Holmes came on and we went from having the upper hand to just destroying them. But turns out my Foxtel box decided to stop recording the game at the 16 minute mark, and there are no more full replays in the schedule. Devastated! Of all the games to do this on, Foxtel, you do it on this one! So I guess I’ll have to try it on YouTube, albeit in lesser quality.

    There was a discussion a few days ago where I said that I thought Marler’s angling would weaken the English scrum if the Wallabies could hold themselves firm, and it looks like that’s exactly what happened. It proves that staying together and having go-forward covers a multitude of sins at scrum time. If your pack is holding together and moving forward, you are going to win more penalties than you concede. And I think that’s exactly how it should be – referees rewarding dominance rather than packs playing silly buggers.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Get Foxtel Go on your computer or ipad (doesn’t cost anything if you already have an account). The game is loaded on that and you can watch it any time, along with a number of other RWC games.

      • Simon

        Thanks mate, I didn’t think of that. I think the better half has Go set up on her iPad.

    • harro

      It’s also in the On Demand menu. There is an entire section for the RWC

      • Simon

        Thanks, I’ll give it a go. I don’t think I can get On Demand as we haven’t been able to get the Internet component of Foxtel working since we have Naked DSL instead of a landline. But I’ll definitely check it out as I may be wrong, and that would be preferable to Go.

    • Douglas

      For a different perspective to the game, there’s (currently) a copy of the full match on youTube with English commentary.

    • Parker

      Don’t fret Simon. It’s on YouTube.

  • Bob

    Matt shhhhhhhh. People are listening.

  • Kate Elizabeth

    This is superb Matt, thank you. Absolutely cracking analysis of some superb work by the Wallabies and Ledesma.
    And I love watching the Poite windmill …. makes me grin everytime!

  • Marlins Tragic

    Crickey, I hope Cheika and the ARU can find a way to keep Ledesma in our national setup, I heard he might be heading back to Arg to coach the SR team.

    • muglair

      I thought the same but I just read todays G&G news. He is allegedly considering staying. Makes sense from an Argentina point of view too. They have one potential future coach on the team of a top 3 nation and can now use another at SR level.

  • Jamie Miller

    This article is nsfw for Wallaby fans. Stimulating stuff.

  • Who?

    Excellent article Matt. A few points:
    – I believe that the Wallabies ‘going early’ was definitely an attempt at finding that strong body position, but I also think it was exaggerated by the English pack. Even in years when they were clearly dominant, much better coordinated and stronger than us, they preferred to try to ‘game’ the ref for a penalty than actually use their scrummaging dominance to create front foot ball. If the Poms weren’t gaming, they would’ve shifted their feet to attempt to find a good body position to scrummage from. But instead, both times, you could see the props (particularly Cole) with their feet well forward, under their guts, hips high, shoulders low. They couldn’t ever scrum from that position, but it did exaggerate that the Wallabies had pushed past the mark.
    – Completely agree with your point about Cole pulling the scrum down for the first English scrum penalty. You’ll note I’ve elsewhere commented that, if it were Benny A there, he’d have been (rightly) pinged for hinging every time. Sio didn’t slip (as all the commentary I heard claimed), he was in good position, but Cole reefed down on his bind and had his hips too high. A few years ago, I’d have been fooled, but the reality these days is that it’s easy to pick the team that took the scrum down – it’s the one with the bigger bend angle at the hips.
    That said, the first few 50-50’s were always going to go against us, due to preconceptions and reputations. But that just makes the final result, the total scrum domination, even sweeter.

  • Tex

    Great analysis Matt. Worth paying for, and hopefully gets a good broadcasting further afield. I’m really enjoying the focus on scrummaging – both from the Wallabies and from the media. Lots to learn and I’m starting to – *shock horror* – get an appreciation for the dark arts.

  • Stivo

    To the tune of sweet chariot

    Swing low Chris Robshaw, that kick for touch could send your team mates home!
    Swing low Joe Marler, not packing straight just sent your team mates home!

    Maybe the English should sing that in their final game.

    • Stray Gator

      If I never hear that damn tune sung again in my lifetime, I’ll die a happy chap.

  • Xaviera

    Good piece – well done. It really was a fascinating match and the scrums were…gold!

    I had been quite concerned about Poite as the referee for this match, as he has been fooled before – this isn’t something the English have just started doing. There is an image used a lot on GAGR, an overhead shot of an English/Wallaby scrum, with Ben Mowen at 8, and the lines are almost identical.

    The good news is, as you’ve noted, he eventually got it right. Worth noting too that his ARs (Clancy & Mitrea) need a wrap – I’ll guarantee that his windmill was as a result of an AR in his ear, and it took Poite that extra second to understand the message he’d just received, as Poite was positioned on the wrong side that time, so it must have been an AR call. That said, Poite often moved to the non-feeding side, and that’s a sure sign that the referee wants to have a look at something. Sadly, we can’t hear the “team of three” comms through the TV, something which should be changed, as that dialogue would provide even more insight into how the scrums were being scrutinised. I reckon watching that match with SportsEars and listening in would have been fascinating. Something for Fox to work on.

    England has now been brutally exposed, both literally and metaphorically. Now they must clean up their act or suffer from a preconception that their scrum is nothing but illegal. Oh the irony.

    • Who?

      Good point about the ‘team of three’ comms. Though I’d like to point out, there was a number of times during the game where you could hear Poite call out “Sean! Sean!” Which I take as him getting the TMO (Sean Veldsman) to look at an incident that Poite wasn’t certain about. No response was taken to mean no problem. I thought that was a much, much smarter way to manage TMO interventions for foul play than we’ve seen in the tournament to date.

      • Xaviera

        Correct – he was asking him to look at something. Alas, we didn’t hear Shaun’s replies, except when play was stopped and there was a chat (e.g. Hooper’s ill-fated clear-out).

        The officiating terminology probably needs updating now too, especially given how the TMOs are now so involved with play on the run. A standard match would be a team of three, but any match with a TMO really needs to be called a team of four. Will be interested to see if and when this slips into the refereeing vernacular.

    • Parker

      Irony, nonsense. Travesty more like it. Why has it taken so many bloody years and wrong decisions for refs to police the scrum properly? Now that they seem to have got it right this year, will it be too much to ask them to police the ruck as well so that the Dark side doesn’t get to lie about and interfere with the their opposition’s clearance?

      • Xaviera

        Travesty in the past – yes. Irony right now and going forwards – most definitely! The whole scenario is rich with it, which makes it all the more rewarding for those in gold.

        Regarding the darkness, I’d reckon Richie has received more cards in the past two seasons than the rest of his career put together – I’ve seen at least three, including two at Test level. That tide may also be turning. We’ll know more in a few short weeks. Will be interesting to see which officials get the chocolates in the knock-out matches.

  • Aron

    English posters on other websites have ‘conceded’ that Aussie scrum were very canny crabbing to the left ‘making’ poor Marler spin out (pretty much what the ITV commentary team alludes). Contending this bs doesn’t elicit any replies (or upvotes) at all so I’m assuming they begrudgingly agree in their hearts or they’re just not passionate about rugby at the moment for some reason.

  • Mark Woods

    If you love scrummaging then this was a great game to watch. I thought Kepu dominated Marler keeping his shoulders square all game in spite of the onslaught from Marler! Kepu should have been man of the match!

  • Brisneyland Local

    Matt, another great piece. Hope all the extra publicity brings you the worth you are due!

  • muffy

    Great analysis Matt.
    The Fijians should feel rightly miffed about this whole scenario, as I thought they were robbed of a potential penalty try on the Soap Dodgers try line, Marler came in at such an angle it was embarrassing – had they awarded the penalty correctly, the Fijians would hae been a safe bet for a push over or penalty try. That would have seen them win and would have changed the whole complexion of the group.

  • Tim Entwisle

    This is a great piece of analysis. I wish the commentators had some inkling of the complexities of scrummaging.

    • Stray Gator

      I though Ben and Cannon made a good fist of it at half-time on C9

      • Who?

        Both claimed that Sio slipped in the first English penalty, when it was pretty clear to me, watching it live, that Cole and pulled down on Sio’s bind and hinged.

        • Michael

          Perhaps but Sio has to adjust his feet quickly and keep driving. He would have for certain got a penalty. Cole just had a bit more experience.

  • Colonel Klinc

    Awesome article, thank you

  • McWarren

    Do you think the refs have also improved there knowledge of the scrum? Not all of them, but there certainly feels to be more of an educated guess now, rather than a preconceived notion of who did what. I know we all did our best to educate Romaine last week, who should we be contacting this week.

    • I think now the hit has gone it’s almost in the realm of possibility to get things right without guessing

  • McWarren

    Does anyone remember a certain contributor making a certain promise if and when the English ‘demolished’ us on the weekend?

  • Patrick

    I’m just so glad that we are no longer getting stuffed like innocent little muppets in the scrum. In fairness we probably do commit a number of ‘infringements’ as the ie42 article points out, but in the end both teams are having a real crack and we are BOTH stronger and, breath of fresh air, smarter.

    And the bind and drive of all eight forwards is fantastic, I used to hate Hooper’s meerkatting but clearly he has been told that all flankers are only one meerkat away from being waterboys and gee its great!

    I’ve been waiting for this time for so long!!

  • RobC

    Thanks Matt. Pom’s scrum were shoved around in the trials, vs all the other teams. So it was a matter of whether WB would deliver consistently, which we did.

    I believe the issue with Eng is what Jamie mentioned in his post. They are neither here or there, and as a result lost power.

  • oztimmay

    Great article Matt!

    Have a look at this ‘training’ video added by Joe. note the Scrum at 36 seconds (Eng V Boks). He’s even setting on an angle there. How no ref has been watching this so closely astounds me.

    it’s even sweeter because it was released by World Rugby themselves…

  • m0b1us

    Conclusion: everybody cheats (not driving straight is also a penalty offence apparently).

    No complaints, we got toweled up and deservedly so.

    • Gilbert

      No one cheats like the Poms

  • MungBean

    Yeah, Brian Moore, shut up ;)

    • Tony Dun

      I was going to have a rant about Moore but you said it so much more succinctly than I would have. An upvote for you sir.

  • mm

    GAGR should take up a collection for Mahler so the prick can get a haircut. The tough guy mohawk look is so friggin lame.

  • Da Munch

    I’d love to see some analysis of the GEO-NAM scrums at the end of the first half. One Namibian prop got binned at about 41 and nearly came back on in the same half. IMO the yellow that led to uncontested scrums should of been a penalty try.

  • Warwick Todd

    I got a chance to watch the full replay yesterday. The scrum was superb but did anyone else notice how gassed Kepu looked in comparison to Sio from the 25th minute. He looked like he was close to collapsing and didn’t really contribute much around the park from this point on. This is by no means a criticism just a curious observation of a player extremely fatigued yet still managed to execute his core role with distinction.

  • Tip

    Can we pause and take a look at David Pocock in each and every overhead still?

    Sure he gets popped when the scrum wheels like CrazyCakes, but Jesus Christ.

    There’s no set of biceps I want wrapped around our 2nd rows arses more than David Pocock’s. He does phenomenally well to keep the locks together and square, and let’s not get started about the extra power he’s able to transfer through the scrum at #8.

  • Pablito

    Very interesting article but a touch one-eyed. See the article you quote for a more unbiased view of the scrums –

    Marler was done up like a kipper by Kepu with his reputation being used against him, the seeds being sown in the media beforehand. That’s not to say Marler didn’t try to cheat at all but to portray the Aussie scrum as entirely honest is incorrect

    But that’s life – England and Marler were out thought and out cheated and out powered in the scrum. Ledesma should have been carried around Twickenham on the shoulders of Aussie supporters after the game.

    Wales will be seriously worried

    PS – whilst Marler certainly does bore in on occasion, Moore was entirely right about that Welsh scrum

  • Andy O’Brien

    Very good & accurate analysis. I was coached by the same England Scrummaging coach and this step across technique has been their bread and butter for years. Marler really exposed himself by his hips way too much.

  • muglair

    Very unfair. Ledesma and Cheika have brought absolute focus on to the scrum. So they should, not only because it can dictate how a game plays out, but because there is real points on offer. Receive a net 2-3 penalties instead of conceding net 2-3. It requires lots of practice and total focus on the scrum as an 8 man unit with total concentration at each scrum.
    I doubt whether Sio and Kepu would prosper back in the day when we had a ‘restart’ coach instead of a scrum coach. It is outrageous that 10 years later Baxter and Dunning continue to be pilloried while the 5 guys behind them, who must have been focussing on the next 3 rehearsed moves after the restart instead of pushing, remain anonymous and forgotten. Lucky them.
    Some context, after Foley was appointed forwards coach the focus on the scrum returned and Baxter and Robinson were part of a scrum which later destroyed England in a Test over there. Cant remember when but Sheridan was in the front row. Possibly Spring Tour 2008 before Jim Williams (wing turned 8) was appointed forwards coach under Deans.
    Surprise surprise Foley was replaced and the scrum went backwards again. Ledesma goes next year, it is up to each rugby team at every level to maintain a high level of focus on the importance of the scrum at training and in the game.

  • Who?

    Completely agree. And the test to which you refer? November, 2008. Best known as ‘The Return of Le Fuse’. One of the great moments of Wallaby scrummaging. Though I’ll admit it took Foley 3 years to achieve that result (he was appointed in 2006).
    The other thing to consider is that Kepu’s what, 29, 30? Baxter was younger than that for the majority of the years he was a Wallaby. Props hit their peak older, because it takes years to get that core strength. Deans dumped him at his peak, when he was starting to be a dominant prop. Impressive, given the guys packing behind him often had reputations for poor scrummaging, and this is the first season where we haven’t seen incessant meerkatting from the loosies. Something that’s only achievable when your scrumhalf communicates well. I was stoked to hear through the ref’s mic at 69 minutes (the scrum before Watson’s bad kick) Nick Phipps screaming to his backline and to his forwards, telling them what was happening, “Going blind, going blind, Break! Break!!!!”). If you can trust your scrumhalf to tell you when to break, there’s no excuse for not having that 8 man shove.

  • Braveheart81

    All of our current front row have been dusted up in the scrum at various points previously. There is clearly a huge improvement in the coaching and that has delivered a huge improvement in the players.

    Robinson in particular was considered the best LHP in the world at one point in his career.

  • Who?

    As a fellow Irishman (albeit one living in Australia), I’d like to point out that you can only push against what’s in front of you.
    And as an Irishman, isn’t it a bit, well, perverse to be supporting those who oppressed us for 700 years, rather than a country founded on the back of similarly persecuted peoples (including plenty of Irishmen and women)..? ;-P

  • Tah fan

    So true, forwards peak towards 30, thats when you start getting towards you strongest self. When le fuse was there he wasn’t picked. If the above mentioned were woeful, then the brumbies and tahs would’ve had bad scrums, but they didn’t, they had dominant ones. Somehow when they had to step up, the coaching and the focus wasn’t there till the right forwards coach was appointed. If the mentioed guys were weak they wouldn’t ever have been able to dominate quality international opposition but they did. Credit where credits due, cheika bought the right twam together, players and support staff and fk its soo good to watch from every facet of the game.


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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