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Set-piece specialists are the key to success

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John Beattie | 15:51 UK time, Monday, 21 June 2010

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.

moraylow595.jpgTwo 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?


  • Comment number 1.

    John my boy - good grief, a post about Iain Milne's backside.

    Totally agree - set pieces win points and ultimately matches.

    However, the amazing thing about modern forwards, particularly the loosies is that a new breed is emerging who can do absolutely everything: be tyros around the pitch, foragers, crash ball specialists and still have superb soft handling skills. The South African and French back rows are outstanding and Scotland has a world class trio itself and you should be proud that your lad is one of them.

    What is more interesting is the question of whether in light of this it is enough for a forward to SOLELY be a set piece specialist and not an all round ball player...

    Players like Pierre Spies, Andrew Hore and Schalk Burger suggest that it is not.

  • Comment number 2.

    Totally agree john , i have admired moray low since his first game for Glasgow. He is now maturing into a fine tight head. He is also a willing ball carrier. Not many countries can boast two quality tight heads , we can !!!

    Great result by the boys , 2 nil in Argentina is no mean feat

  • Comment number 3.

    Forwards rarely win matches but very difficult for the backs to do it without a good forward platform. Scotland's set piece has been good for a while, what we have now are some quality options (excepting hooker). I'm hoping Low's development will not allow/motivate Murray to get back to top form (didn't feel he played well by his standards last season).

    Agree totally with your Ian Milne comments, was one of the best ever tightheads and one of few Scots (Gordon Brown, Gavin Hastings) who would be seriously considered for a world 15 in his time. I was very disappointed on the 1983 Lions tour where he and Colin Deans (although Deans was up against it with the captain being a hooker) were over-looked for the tests. By that time Price's best days were past (he retired from international rugby soon after) and Milne's case should have been compelling. Respect for W-J McBride fell a bit after that tour. Don't expect you comment John as you were on that tour and they may all be friends of yours, but imagine you understand my stance.

  • Comment number 4.

    Previous comment should have read "now" instead of "not" re:Murray. Hope intend obvious.

  • Comment number 5.

    It should definitely should be the case that a dominant scrum should win games but these days a mobile prop is just as much in demand as a scrummaging prop.

    A clash of cultures perhaps - Argentina would never have mobile props, over props acting as extra flankers but Australia would and even SA are not the scrummaging force of old.

    None other than Coach Deans himself highlighted the defensive tackling capabilities of his young Oz props around the rucks. This presumably means his flankers can fan out further into midfield and carry out two man tackles on the attacking backs to set up turnover and counter attacks.

    Mobile props who can adequately hold up a scrum which whilst not intimidating other international scrums can mean more these days particularly when refs are very reluctant to recognise early dominance.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi, I didn't mean that a player should be a set piece animal only, but you have to have a set piece if you want to win a game. I think if all other areas are equal but one team pushes the other around the pitch and wins the lineout then that team will win.
    GeorgeCarlin - yup, new breed can do most of it. Just watched the english loosehead in the junior world cup ran in a try.


  • Comment number 7.

    John you seem to be forgetting Englands first test against Australia, where England not only dominated the scrums but actually destroyed them. I have never seen such a strong scrumaging display. But for all those 8 mens hard work, the game was lost. And why? Because that's all England decided to turn up with for that game.

    I would say a good scrum and lineout can win really help change the game by stealing posession at key times, but without a good attacking set of back and the forwards backing them up in the lose (defensive and attack) an organised team will run straight through you when the ball is not at a lineout or scrum!

  • Comment number 8.

    Watched two games on TV Saturday with my 89 year old father in law - ex Wasps flanker & Twickenham 7's winner. He migrated to NZ.

    The NZ versus Wales was absorbing from early Welsh dominance to second half destruction by NZ. Carter at his best and counter attacking that was breath taking.

    Then came England and Australia, what a bore. England won because Giteau left his kicking boots at home. Had Australia won it still would have been a bore. Watching 122kg prop forwards walking slowly to scrums and line outs is just so exciting. The break downs just so impressive with the fellows lying over their tackled player to keep the opposition away.

    Raised my nostalgia when we played generations ago, when tackled you rolled away from the ball, both the tackler and tackled and hands not allowed in ruck only the boot. Seemed so much simpler and straight forward then. Not much incentive to lie on the ball in those days with boot rucking. The number 8 was the link man then - now he is often nothing more than a human battering ram like the cumbersome unimaginative prop forwards.

  • Comment number 9.

    Have some sympathy with TJR - after playing my first Union match 45 years ago - I now find Union boring - players not allowed to think and overcoached, too much kicking, long scrums, lineouts predetermined etc.

    Watched a lot of League this year - fantastic. Little kicking, scrums around 10 seconds, play virtually non stop, players running off each other and using their brain and if the score was 25 - 40 - 99% of that came from tries.
    Never thought I would say all this !!

  • Comment number 10.

    TJR - The England Australia game a bore? were you watching the same game? this was a scintillating game, England didnt particularly dominate the scrum as the aussies has improved dramatically over the week, both teams played attacking incisive rugby, youngs got the england backline firing and running with the ball and foden and cueto ran the ball back rather than kicking it away, its the best display ive seen from england in years and was lovely to watch, the aussies asalways were a threat as they love to counter attack ball in hand and run the ball (both giteaus tries!) Giteau missed 2 penalites, 6 points, but do you need reminding that Flood and Wilko missed as well, a total of 8 points? ie had neither side missed their kicks then England would still have ended up victors, but regardless, due to the nature of the game, i would have been happy for either side to have won because it was a good game to watch.
    Tackles from both sides where hard and both sides competed aggresively at the breakdown as well.

    That said i do agree with your comments on the No 8, Easter is a prime example, a lump of a man who (when he feels inclinded) runs like ball carrying prop, rarely playing a link man, Dynamic 8's who linked well are missing from the game but the top 8's in the world do link in well, Easter most definitely is not one, nor would i say is Elsom, but the likes of Beattie, Parisse, Powell, Heaslip are dominate at 8 because they link nad run well between the forwards and backs. England miss this.

    JB - undoubtably strong set pieces win you the game, it gives any team the stability to provide a platform from which to launch their attacks and is therefore essential. in the first test, for example england had that stability and platform but they failed in two arrears to capitalise on that,
    firstly they didnt utilise that dominance to expand to the breakdown and compete to secure ball and or'turnover,
    secondly, they did not have a 'general' to direct and utilise that platform to launch their attackes, Care allowed the Oz defence time to get set, the ball was too slow, he often crabbed across before releasing the ball as well making himself predictable. that is why england lost the first test, the link between the forwards and backs was unfortunately not strong enough to utilise the advantage we had. The difference Youngs made was great this week, he controlled his forwards well and despite not having the platform care had, he released the ball quickly upping Englands tempo, engalnd because of this had slightly more time, so running the ball was more of an option, it gave confidence to the players both forwards and backs and appeared to sharpen their resolve. In the end it was a very good performance from both teams.
    Both these tests highlighted the need for dominance at the set piece, and the advantages it can have, but they also made it abundantly clear that in order to utilise that advantage the link between the set piece and the attack iteslf has to be strong as well.

  • Comment number 11.

    Of course set pieces are vital, but are they really more important than the breakdown? After all, tries are rarely scored with first-phase ball. It is vital to retain not just the ball but also the momentum in the tackle. Australia tore England apart in the first Test, despite losing the scrum battle hands-down. Why? Because they dominated the breakdown.

  • Comment number 12.


    No guessing where your allegiances are.......... probably the same place you keep your glasses for your one eye.

    I actually watched both games and enjoyed them for different reasons - I very much suspect you missed the second game while you spent all your time reminiscing about halcyon days when men were men and sheep were frightened. If you had bothered you would have enjoyed an exciting tightly fought contest with tries from both sides – as you didn’t you can continue to make negative comments with the view you had come to before the match had even started.

    John B,
    I agree you need a solid set piece but as Tim has noted the breakdown is vitally important to provide momentum for the team and ball for the backs – the two highest rated teams (NZ & SA) have both formidable back rows to dominate this phase plus the back line to do something with the ball.

    In the case of NZ their back row more than make up for the average set piece they currently have and have had for the last few years (since Hayman left). It’s the balance that is required and the ability to work around shortcomings.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Forwards win rugby matches Backs decide by how many points".

    The complete dominance of the English pack in the first test was not completely pointless (sorry) in that if you watch the Australian back row all three back rowers had to stay bound in and push to keep the scrum relatively stable.

    This meant that the were two steps slower to breakdowns and tackles than in the first test where they barely bound (and were unpunished for not binding) during the match.

    Couple that with the fact Youngs wanted the ball quickly and the team seemed to want to run Australia were made to look poorer.

  • Comment number 14.

    Martha should be singing "Heatwave" as Glasgow looks more like Cannes (a train trip around Europe for £30 as a student in case you ask).

    Tim - you have a great point. But I find when coaching that if you have a dominant set piece then you go forward to breakdowns and that sets you up more positively than going back after a rocky set piece. The thing that impresses me most about modern teams is that co-ordination between different parts to get across the gain line, the fast tap down, the flat quick pass from 9, ten attacking and twelve hitting up. It's a group exercise that I don't think is replicated in many sports. Ben Youngs is a star.

    As for the England v Australia game I think it was great. England were very, very good. The All Blacks and the Springboks still seem a bit harder than the rest of us

    Back into the sunshine - Ian Jones, classic example of set piece person for the All Blacks


  • Comment number 15.

    Another good blog, John. Of course you're right (again?); set pieces win games (with the obvious exception of England's first game against Australia, in which England's pack totally dominated, but Australia's backs scored the tries).

    I agree that the Argentine tour heralded the emergence onto the international scene of one Moray Low. I thought that he played very, very well indeed. A star in the making?

    It's funny, but tours usually do have a couple of seminal moments and this tour was no exception. Moray Low’s emergence as an international tight head and the other I would say was/is Al Kellock's emergence as Scotland's Captain. I don't know how Andy's going to finesse this one; telling a healthy Chris Cusiter that Kellock will be the future captain.

    Perhaps, John, you have a suggestion for Andy on how to handle it.

  • Comment number 16.

    I forgot to include, in support of your thesis, that it was Scotland's total domination of Ireland's line out that won the 6 Nations game in Dublin earlier this year. That domination coupled with Dan Parks' boot, of course!

  • Comment number 17.

    Having watched wales consistently struggle in the line out for the last 20 or so years i agree that a solid set piece is vital, even if its only to defend your own ball. How many times have i seen us give away a good position when we loose an attacking lineout. I remember our attempt to address this by selecting derwyn jones in the early 90's. A totaly useless player but he was 20 foot tall. I remenber on a tour of SA koebus weisse realised derwyns lineout dominace so promptly knocked him out.

    When i become the welsh coach i'm going to make them practice lineouts all day.

  • Comment number 18.

    Petrin - i wouldnt say Wales have struggled recently, their set piece and forward power in recent years has been solid enough and competetive enough to provide a good platform and they, as a nation, are oozing with talent at half back and in the backline. As an englishman i loathe to admit it but for the last 5/6 years Wales have had an exciting combination inthe forwards and backs, but for whatever reason, at times, they fail to deliver. I'm not sure why this is, they even have an excellent coaching team and backroom staff. They have the talent in the forwards to compete amongst the best forward packs in world rugby, they have exciting and talented half backs to compete amongst those in world rugby, who even on a bad day can involve their talented backline. For some reason Wales dont click consistently, which is a dire shame because in the matches when they do, their rugby is beautiful to watch and brilliant to behold. If they could bring a high level of consistency to their game, well.....2011...they could be challengers. Not sure what went wrong last weekend other than a lack of consistency in their play maybe, NH sides are fast catching up to the their SH counterparts though, Scotlands pack is solid with an exciting and powerful back row with some exciting and experienced backs, Wales have alsways had talent and progress well, Ireland are a solid old guard but with the inklings of some exciting prospects, England appears to be beginning to fire, France have always had a stylish powerful front up type of play which inevitably has flair and make no bones about it these five nations themselves are being quickly chased down by the Italians year on year. Is it too little too late for any NH side to compete next year?? Discuss

  • Comment number 19.

    John, great blog and so on the mark. It got even better when I reached the final paragraph. By some sweet symmetry and honestly, without even thinking about it, my response would always be - John Low. Father of young Moray who provided many comfortable afternoons on Aboyne Green and elsewhere in the north east. Let's hope it's a case of 'like father like son' for Kellock, Hamilton & Co.

  • Comment number 20.

    Petrin, You are right, If you can't win your own line out you will lose the game. It amazes me how slow some teams are to catch on to the ineptitude of their opponents and don't just boot it in to touch every time they get the ball. I remember watching Wales practise at Twickenham before the pre RWC game in 2007 and they couldn't catch their own ball unopposed. Wales would be a much better team if the forwards practised the line out to the exclusion of anything else.

  • Comment number 21.

    In support of some of the earlier comments, I take you back to the Scotland France game at the beginning of this year's 6Ns. Some commentaters said the Scottish back row were outplayed by their French counterparts that day. I expressed at the time that they gave a very honourable account of themselves against a world class backrow on a day when the Scottish front five were struggling all afternoon - possible their best performance of the season given the circumstances.

    You have of course mentioned some wonderful front row players - and there are so many whose names bring back warm memories - Fran Cotton, Peter Wheeler, Bill ( you just get me up there Franny - I'll get down under my own steam!) Beaumont, Paul "The Judge" Rendall, Brian Moore, Probyn, Dooley & Ackford, Peter Wheeler of course, and I always felt Kenny Milne was an under-rated hooker - he never let you down. Keith Wood. Sean Fitzpatrick was a gritty and formidable opponent. Sandy Carmichael and, of course the greatest of them all - your old pal, J.B. the great MIGHTY MOUSE!!

    P.S. Apologies to the great ones I've overlooked. I must stop boring you ang go to bed!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Goody - soapbox time! To be sure: a great truth artfully told. To the doubters, science in this instance concurs with art: dominance in the set pieces certainly correlates pretty reliably with winning. This is by no means to say that, at a higher level of aggregation, overall possession does not correlate strongly with winning, too. The fact is, however, that dominance in the set pieces expedites domination in the loose, whereas dominance in the loose does not discernably make for dominance in the tight.

    Nowadays much is made of the ball-playing skills of tight forwards, but most coaches agree that, soft contests excepted, given a choice between a ball player and a set-piece contributer for a tight forward position, it is the set-piece contributer who will run on. No point in being able to carry up a ball which hasn't been won, is there?

    Of course the game does not end where it begins. Possession must not only be secured: it must also be exploited. However, there are other players in the team far better situated to take care of the latter, and things are generally pretty dire when those players look to the tight five for defence and penetration. When periodically a "miracle" tight forward, who does the works, emerges ("Bakkies" Botha in South Africa, Ablelatif Benazzi in France and Sean Fitzpatrick in New Zealand, for example), he should be celebrated as an exception rather than made into an unattainable rule.

    Equally obviously, the more competent the rest of the team, the less comprehensive the dominance required of the front five will be. In the last game of their last grand slam, Scotland's tight five did not have to achieve more than parity for the brilliant pivot five to dominate the game - but they were not dominated, and had they been, it is doubtful whether Calder, Jeffrey, Turnbull, Armstrong and Chalmers would have put it over the English as they did. And the outside five did their bit handsomely, too, lest we forget. (Nice contrast with England's recent first test against Australia, I thought.)

    Just before the mob tears me off my soapbox and demolishes me and my soapbox together, that Murrayfield encounter demonstrated the extent to which cunning can substitute for brawn in the set-piece contest...

    ... Okay, I'm going, I'm going ...

    ... but keep up the interesting blogs!

  • Comment number 23.

    Have to say I come down in favour of new initiatives to make set pieces less crucial (though personally I feel League has rather thrown out the baby with the bathwater).

    Of course, what I really mean is initiatives to accentuate the importance of fluid, thrilling, running rugby.

    But surely the world is turned on its head when erm.. England are the ones playing it?? I believe I need to lie down.

    Thumbs-up to Bryn Palmer btw - the plural of "Maori" is "Maori"!

  • Comment number 24.

    My first ever comment on a blog so bear with me.
    Have to agree with JB, as an old forward it was always clear that the forwards battle decided the result and the way the backs played decided by how much the game was won or lost by. But that was then and this is now and I do think that this simple formula still mostly holds true, thus making it still vital to dominate the set piece, in particular the scrum as good attacking scrum ball ties in back row defenders and is a great platform.

  • Comment number 25.

    I don't know if dominate is the right word in it's purist terms. I think the pack need to at least get parity and win their own ball. Anything better than that is a bonus. It's then what the prima donnas in the back division do with their possession that makes a good team great. I think Scotland now will have parity in the forwards against most of the top 7/8 teams. What AR needs to do is get the backs purring and making breaks from all areas and then, finally, finishing off the move by touching down over the white wash. We do seem to have some backs who now have guile, speed, confidence to make the break.

    Autumn internationals will be a very, very interesting few games methinks. That will really determine where Scotland are in respect to the other nations. But wow.....number 7 in the world. Well done the boys.

  • Comment number 26.

    has it not always been the case that the scottish pack has for the majority of the years been able to compete and equal other top 8 sides forwards for 60mins then they lose out towards the end of games.

    now the pack is capable to partiy and on recent form dominating against most teams(exclude nz sa and france). is it not the case they are just short of a few true dynamic ball carriers in the tight 5 as the back row is more dynamic and athletic than before.

    jim hamilton is big but can he really bulldoze with ball in hand for more than metre or 2 before flopping to the ground? thinking for the future surely richie gray a man of +120kg of muscle who is a far better athlete should be considered and blooded straight away instead of doing the scottish thing and holding him back until he's 23/24 until he's given time to settle himself instead of allowing him to play now when he's already capable and talented enough to make a difference.

    also as good a lineout operator and leader as kellock is does he really measure up in the loose as you require from a second row i mean how hard would it be for him to be a few kg's heavier and have a better impact in the loose. i feel this is were the pack is let down slightly if they are to compete to that next stage and go last quarters at wc

    any1 disagree?

  • Comment number 27.

    macdizzle - you talk alot of sense. I haven't seen much of Richie Gray, but am looking forward to seeing more of him when he is ready having heard the promising reports about him. However, I believe in top International rugby it is essential for Scotland to pick their best 15 to achieve wins which then instil confidence & self belief. Furhermore some players even if they are large take time to mature and it could be fatal to pitch a promising young forward into International rugby before he is ready. Confidence and self belief are everything in top class sport and can be seriously damaged by a drubbing if he is not yet ready. Scotland are currently building promisingly, but will not become world beaters overnight with or without Richie. Yes, they would benefit from more penetrative ball carriers in the front five, but they are providing a solid platform in the tight for the loose forwards and backs to play off which should enable them to start to develop their attacking game and gain more confidence. I'm sure it will not be long before Richie gets his chance, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

    Whilst the Argentina tour has demonstrated that the development of the side is sill very uch a work in progress, the confidence and self belief the side will gain will be absolutely invaluable to them. The lack of belief that they were capable of being winners in the best company was the reason their results in the 6N did not justify the way they played rather than any lack of fitness of the front five.

    A.R. - you and the boys are doing a tremendous job, keep up the good work. It brightens all our lives to have hope and anticipation of exciting and winning rugby from you again.

  • Comment number 28.

    Argentina 41 France 13

    Either Scotland did very, very well to win two tests in Argentina or France were woeful in this match. Having seen none of this match it does make me wonder, even more, just how good are this Scottish side actually are in the grand scheme of things. Maybe we should consider giving Andy Robinson his naturalisation papers now.

  • Comment number 29.

    The JB theory also holds good at club level where the dominance this season by Currie & Ayr through their forwards & backed up by their back-line. Yes, they were also both noted for a certain mobility in their "8", but in the set piece, they both proved to have no equal, apart from each other, with Currie, deservedly, shading it at the last gasp.

  • Comment number 30.

    With very few exceptions Rugby Union is won by the forwards end of story. As they say it starts upfront and ends there. I can almost count on one hand the number of games in the last 10 years that have been won by the backs. Who controls the the set piece and breakdown wins the match. Breakdown is more important than set piece generally but if you dominate both it is almost impossible for a superior backline to compensate for a poor pack. A worldclass backline can look like terrible if their pack wins ball but takes a step backwards in doing so. On the contrary an average backline can look like world beaters if the pack wins quick ball on the front foot.

    Forwards win the game. The backs determine by how much.

  • Comment number 31.

    Watching SA last weekend reminded be of one of the Springbok greats, Flippie van der Merwe, whose lad came off the bench. Flippie senior was a monster who was unshiftable in the scrum. He never moved at more than a trot and I don't think I ever saw him with ball in hand but losing tight-heads was not a possibility

  • Comment number 32.

    john, i see Gordon Mckie and Ian "mighty mouse" Mclaughlan are bemoaning the recent performance of our Scotland U20's in Argentina ... "men against boys"... again they are banging the drum about how we have a small player base from which to choose our "stars" of the future, and again saying we need to expose our young players to more regular, higher standards of competitive games.
    Well here's a quick fix ... why dont we keep the regional age group squads together at U17,U18 level (approx 100 boys this year at U18), have them play a series of home and away matches with each region, then take on the English academies at the same age level, this would surely raise the standard of their game, provide better opposition and have the benefit of giving Scotland a larger, higher standard, pool of players to pick from for the Scotland U19 and U20 squads.
    The regional coaching set ups are in place, all it should really take is the setting of fixtures, the lads would train with their regions before a match, and return to their respective clubs for coaching and training, as they do anyway.
    Dont throw away prospective talents just because we only have 2 pro teams and not enough places in our "national academy", develope them through the regional competition with cross border forays to develope and "harden" our actually quite "large" pool of potential pro players.
    I hope someone at murrayfield can see the benefit of this train of thought,and maybe that it wouldnt cost a lot of money, the lads would finance it themselves to be given the chance of this development opportunity. C'mon mighty mouse give it a go !

  • Comment number 33.

    Most modern referees have about as much idea about what is happening in a front row as we fellas have about what's going on in our wives' heads.

    The scrum is the glory and the majesty of the Union game, the Right of the Line and the place of honour. Here in the front row big fat men - nowadays not really fat at all (except Allen Jacobsen, bless him) - engage in combat with other big fat men, while giant tall blokes crush our goolies in the bind and stick their head dangerously close to our backsides. Behind that a row of big rangy men, often fermers or polismen or 'wild colonials' break free from the fat and tall men and perform legendary feats such as running - well legendary to the fat men anyway.

    Long may it be so. I for one enjoy watching 122kg (19 stone to the non-metric) forwards battle one another and would happily do so all afternoon. Unfortunately scrums, line outs, and mauls get constantly interrupted by all this running nonsense. Who scored Scotland's last try - Jim Hamilton. I rest my case.

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 Auldfatlooseheid

    Totally agree!!

    There's nothing I enjoy more than the slow amble from ruck to scrum and back; breathing in the air with long enjoyable breaths, occasionally breaking into (what some would claim) is a 'slow trot' but is forever known to the front row as a 'sprint' and then relishing the next scrum - weighing up your oppo and giving him the sly wink as you pack down, ready for the next push to get the load of ponces behind you a go with the ball; only to have it forever knocked on by some slick haired back!

    The gentlemen of the game - that's for sure 8-)

  • Comment number 35.

    Alarmed to see the article in todays BBC Rugby section regarding banning scrums in schools or in junior rugby. Without getting into the "nanny state" argument, the RU boards should respond to this with some hopefully strong resistance or the game we love could die or be irreparably damaged. We might have to watch RL for goodness sake!

  • Comment number 36.

    Enjoyed mightychewster's comments - clearly another 'gentleman of the game'. On a more serious note I think exilehooker raises a very good point. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist but I sometimes get the feeling there is a prejudice in modern rugby, certainly among the clowns who pass for pundits on the BBC (JB and Andy Nichol excepted) against traditional, perhaps somewhat one-dimensional front row men. But I tell you this, I remember what my old coach told us at school, 'Boys, you cannae play rugby withoot the ba' ' That ball has to be won and that is the forwards' job.

    Schoolboys need to learn that too. The scrum isn't just one aspect of rugby, I would say it is the soul and the heart of rugby union. When the game went open, much that was good was lost and we now live in times unrecognisable even 10 years ago. It is vital that we do not lose something even more important.

    The big problem with scrums nowadays is the way they are refereed. I wasn't joking when I made my remarks about complete ignorance among referees. I even met one who did not understand the difference between a tight and a loosehead (that is true not something I have added to make a good story). More education is needed and greater consistency. Penalties are awarded on a more or less random basis. There is a real danger the scrum could be under threat. I respect RL but it is not my game, we could well end up with a version of it and that would be a tragedy.


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