Set-piece specialists are the key to success
Oh, I can remember that feeling; a black psychological moment. Pack down for the first scrum and, despite your best efforts, the studs start sliding and back you go. This is going to be a tough eighty minutes. Second best in the set-piece is a bad place to be.
Looking at the weekend's international games I have to say that despite rugby being more open, tackling getting better and better, and handling skills improving all around the world, it is pretty obvious that the set-piece wins you games.
If you can dominate at scrum and lineout then you finish on top.
Two moments in the Scotland versus Argentina game spring to mind. There was a scrum where Moray Low at tight-head was up against "Ro-Ro" Roncero, a legend of the dark arts of front row play. It was early in the game, and the crowd in Mar del Plata expected the home players to gain ascendancy. Incredibly, Low got Roncero moving backwards.
You could almost say the game was won at that very moment.
A new international tight-head had been discovered. These men can name their price and here was the next on the list.
If your tight-head can get the upper hand then those valuable attacks to the right hand side of the scrum can be launched.
The same could be said for Dan Cole elsewhere in the southern hemisphere as England, with Cole and Tim Payne at either side of the front row, humiliated their Aussie opponents to set up a crisp and satisfying win.
The second Scottish moment came right at the end of the game. Argentina kicked for the corner with less than a minute to go. It was their throw in. Scott McLeod, who took up rugby late after forays into golf and basketball, soared high into the evening rain to snaffle the ball, embraced it with two hands, landed back to earth with good support, and so ended the game there and then.
Perhaps Argentina, looking to set up the maul, guessed that there would be an attempt to repel them without jumping, but if they did then they guessed wrong. The side attacking the set-piece came out on top.
Looking back at great rugby teams, they have all had great set-piece players. Martin Johnson in his day in the English pack, Graham Price at tight-head for Wales, Sheridan, Fitzpatrick, Cotton, Pontypool front row, Milne, Hayes, Smith, the list goes on and on. They were men who were built for winning the ball.
Their skills might not have seemed as impressive as, say, a Barry John, Townsend, or O'Driscoll, but you have to win the ball first before you can play with it.
There are always moves to make the set-piece less important. Rugby League, when it split from Union, did away with lineouts and rendered scrums less meaningful.
But the ability to push in a scrum and lift and jump in a lineout are key in Rugby Union, and this weekend demonstrated that again.
The best tight-head I ever played with was Iain Milne, "the Bear" - still my favourite and arguably the most comfortable backside in world rugby - ever. Who was yours?