Scrum Analysis: The Importance Of The Middle Row - Green and Gold Rugby
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Scrum Analysis: The Importance Of The Middle Row

Scrum Analysis: The Importance Of The Middle Row

Last week I analysed the Rebels’ scrum, including a review of the correct techniques for props when scrummaging — click here if you missed it. This week I’m going to look at the importance of the middle row. 

The middle row consists of the two locks and the two flankers. The props are the foundation of your scrum and act as the conduit to transfer the drive coming from the middle row into the opposition. If your props have the wrong body shape and body height at the point of engagement, the drive from the middle row will be wasted.

Importantly, the front row and the middle row have to work together, at the same height and on the same plane. Ideally you want that plane to be horizontal so that the coordinated drive goes straight through to the opposition.

The starting point for any pack is to understand how the forces in a scrum work before they can begin making improvements.  The video below shows examples of teams getting it right and how even international packs often get it wrong.

[youtube id=”Nq4xkW80ElA” width=”600″ height=”350″]

The drive in a scrum comes from the whole middle row, not just the locks. When you see flankers just hanging off the side of the scrum as the packs engage and then popping their heads up ready to break early, you can be almost certain that their team’s scrum isn’t functioning properly.

Next week I’ll show you why the flankers form such a vital part of the middle row’s ability to generate drive and I’ll also look at the scrummaging role of the number eight.

  • Guy

    awesome… mooorrrre!

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  • Joe Mac

    This has been very useful for a back who has never been in a scrum. Thanks Scott

  • Newter

    I noticed the Waratahs frontrow has a technique of dropping their bodies and then lunging on the engage call. It lets them get even lower on impact, because they don’t have to support their own body weight in that split second.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen

    Is it my imagination that the Refs were at one stage warning against pushing before the ball was put into the scrum? If so they seem to have gone away from that and look for other things to ping.

    As someone who knows little about scrums, the one thing that I can not understand in this idea of a fair contest is why is it important for the line out throw to be straight but okay it seems for the scrum feed to be crooked?

    Personally looking at old Rugby footage, I reckon it worked best without the CTPE of the Ref and just let the scrums come together & the 9 feed the ball.

    • Who?

      Law 20.1
      (j) Stationary and parallel. Until the ball leaves the scrum half’s hands, the scrum must be
      stationary and the middle line must be parallel to the goal lines. A team must not shove the
      scrum away from the mark before the ball is thrown in.

      Scott didn’t get to it, but it’s also interesting to note the role that binding plays in the second row. Everything I’ve seen says that the locks MUST bind tightly to each other, something that’s been a failing of Wallaby scrums pointed out in many videos on this website. There is a stronger way to bind – crotch binding, where, instead of binding to each other, the locks bind between the hooker’s legs. This is outlawed (Law 20.3 (f) ), and is mainly interesting to note because the last time I saw it done was Mark Chisholm in a Test in SA, where the ref (Barnes from memory, can’t remember the game, it was about the 30 minute mark) warned him about it as they formed the scrum. We’d been dominant until that scrum, suddenly, we were back to parity.

      Scott, these videos are truly brilliant, all we can hope is that other nations don’t use them, and our coaches do!

      • Scott Allen

        Next week, when I discuss the relationship between locks and flankers you’ll see that the bind between the locks is actually not that important.

        I know that might sound strange as it goes against what most people tell you but with the benefit of overhead footage it will be obvious.

    • Scott Allen

      The crooked feed is one of the worst things in rugby. It takes away much of the contest, which is a real point of difference for rugby.

  • Pete

    I’d love it if every schoolboy rugby coach saw this so that the up and coming piggies in Australia knew this stuff.

    I learnt more about scrummaging in 3 minutes than 6 years of schoolboy rugby.

  • Pedro

    Well done. These bits have been a great insight into the ‘dark arts’.

    Just wondering, what do you think about how much harder binding is with modern ‘jerseys’?

    • Scott Allen

      It is very tough for looseheads to get their bind these days with tight jerseys.

      I think it’s unfair and props should wear jerseys that have panels or something (???) that can be bound onto.

  • Thierry Dusautoir

    Scott interested to hear your toughts on stormers vs force scrums. As when i watched that game i thought the force look abit high on the set yet they seemed to get over the stormers pack

    • Scott Allen

      Had a quick look at those scrums.

      Cowan was setting up higher than the Stormers tighthead and was high on the engage but the Stormers tighthead was terrible so Cowan was all over him.

      Ma’afu was setting up in a good low position and was good on the engage.

      I was very surprised at how poor the Stormers scrum was.

  • the realist

    Interesting that the Leinster prop, (either Ross or Healy?) has been talking up Brad Thorn’s power behind him in the scrum this season and the crusaders props have been talking up how much they miss his power. The scrum is an 8 man effort!

  • johnny-boy

    And after what, more than 4 years of having a supposedly world class awe inspiring kiwi coach, one Robbie Deans, guiding the Wallabies, how many giant strides forward has the Wallabies scrum made in implementing these very basic elementary laws of physics that Scott is demonstrating so well. At a guess, I would say absolutely f….. none. JON you are a genius.

    • hannibal

      Absolutely agree. we’ve had 4 years of no apparent focus on basic skills across the park. Just defence and “play whats in front of you” – whatever that means.

      1. The failure of the scrum to improve let alone achieve anything like parity.
      2. How the lineout falls apart regularly.
      3. How the Wallabies constantly give back ball on restarts. Basic stuff.
      4. How the Wallabies are penalised so heavily in the ruck vs the All Blacks – we cant keep blaming refs and not focus on technique.
      5. The lacks of offloads in attack due to poor support play.
      6. The lack of counter rucking from the Wallabies.
      7. Until a kick “consultant” was occassionally employed in the past 12-18 mths, the poor conversion and penalty stats from the Wallabies.
      8. The regular failure of clearing kicks to make touch and poor general decision making on kicking in play.

      • the realist

        What you have written is fair but most apparent by Australian Super xv franchises because we don’t have the players or the coaches at that level. Therefore Deans has a difficult job trying to un-do the poor provincial coaching/player recruitment we have.

        The answer is to have more foreign coaches not one less. Look at what Jake White has already doen for example.

        The other issue I have with your comment is that between the end of 2009 and end of 2010 I thought Deans had corrected all these issues and we were in my opinion the best team in the world at that point (around the time we beat the AB’s in Hong Kong). What went wrong at the RWC last year was two-fold; 1) the loss of Robinson and Palu when we could not afford to lose two world class forwards (we only have 6 when France, AB”s etc have 16….fyi I include Moore, P NAU, Elsom and Pocock in that category) and 2) the simple fact that QC and Genia ran out of luck and their flaws came to the fore front of their play in the RWC.

        Deans is the right choice, it is just we do not have the player depth to handle injuries or poor form because we do not have a plan B. Our plan B loses to Samoa, they lose to clubs sides on spring tours and they are going to get spanked on a tuesday in june against Scotland! that is the problem with australian rugby and it stems from our poor super xv depth in coach and player talent.

        • johnny-boy

          No – it stems from giving a dopey kiwi 4 years to achieve s.f.a. We need more foreign coaches like a hole in the head (White is an exception being the best southern hemisphere coach next to McKenzie) . Isnt it Deans’ responsibility to come up with a Plan B ?. We are trying to build depth by starting an extra team. It’s only new and it’s doing better than the Auckland Blues and even then the Rebels have recruited incredibly poorly and being coached equally poorly. With some more young Aussie punks and a smart coach they would improve out of sight. Then we would be talking about kicking the Blues and the Lions out of the comp and not before bloody time !

        • Patrick

          But we do have the player depth – in the RwC alone, for example, we had Palmer, we had Higgers, we had Burgess, we had Barnes, we had Mortlock, we had Sharpey, there were options in nearly every friggin position who didn’t get a look-in.

          And the point from this year’s Brums is that a good coach creates depth by building his players up with the basics. If everyone is executing the basics even moderately well but consistently, it is almost easy to appear great because the player will be there to receive your 50/50 offload, the dummy-runner will be there to create that gap, the support will be there to pick-and-run, the chasers will pressure the kick-receiver, need I go on??

        • the realist

          It is a sad state of affairs when you feel that the national coach needs to be coaching supposed elite athletes the ‘basics’. The fall short is clearly with the super xv coaches. Have you not noticed we are the weakest country at super xv? Is that Deans fault? As for player depth more people play rugby in the USA than Australia! We punch well above our weight on the world scene so making RWC semis or being ranked in the top 3 is actually quite remarkable. Patrick so you’re saying Palmer, Higgers, Burgess, Mortlock and Sharpey are world class? the last two maybe 4 years ago. Barnes to be fair had an ambiguous year and could’ve been a liability. As it turned out he went ok by the end of the year. Hindsight is wonderful.

        • johnny-boy

          Well if Deans sees a deficiency in basics, he should fix it. The problem is he is clearly unable to see any deficiency and worse he is obviously incapable of fixing it. We punch well above our weight because we have great players, not great coaches. In fact it’s been in spite of the last 3 dopey coaches, Jones, Connolly and Deans.
          And an Australian team won the Super XV last year.

        • the realist

          We punch well above our weight because we are lucky to live next door to NZ and our franchises are in super rugby. That competition has propped up our measly player resources. Now that we have spread or resources thin we MUST turn to coaching from abroad and we should not behave like petulant children when it comes to Deans because we are lucky to have him. We do not have the god given right to be no 1 in the world as you seem to think. The fact that Deans took us from 07 where we were a laughing stock in europe and easy beats in the QF’s to ranked 2nd and semis at the RWC is an achievement. We fell short of the big prize due to the injuries and form as I mentioned plus a NZ that were destined to win on their home soil. Any of the 6 nations would kill their own grandmothers to have Deans coach their national side and with the Lions touring I wouldn’t want anyone else at the helm.

        • johnny-boy

          Whatever. Deans won’t be there by the end of the year anyway, thank goodness.

        • the realist

          isn’t he signed up for 2013?

        • johnny-boy

          He’ll be sacked by the end of the year – gauranteed

        • the realist

          no he won’t mate. he’s signed up for atleast until the lions tour next year

          ps i liked your argument two posts ago…. ‘whatever’…. well that’s that then you win cos you said ‘whatever’…. how old are you?

  • Patrick

    Scotty these are gold and you’re a gun, I hope you do one every week, they’re about my favourite posts!

  • qwerty51

    Can’t believe there is no mention of the greatest scrummager of them all, Brad Thorn in this article.

    • Patrick

      maybe Pyle, Simmons, Timani jnr, Wykes et al all need a few years in Rugby League to really learn to scrum??

  • Hawko

    Awesome video Scott, greatly appreciated.

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Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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