Thankfully, Whiff of Cordite has never been involved in the business end of a scrum, preferring instead to stand far away and not think too much about it. Luckily, we have located a total geek who knows a hell of a lot about the coalface. Step forward … Mike Ross:
“It’s basic physics at the end of the day and the focus is on the pack as a whole. I know it’s difficult in terms of their (backrow) defensive duties but speaking as a frontrow, it makes a huge difference if you have them staying down and giving that weight until the scrum finishes. A lot of teams will wait for the opposing backrow to stand up and they will come again; once they have you moving it is too late to come back from that.”
Impressive. Ross was renowned at Quins for spending huge amounts of time studying the opposition front row, and he has taken that approach with him to Leinster and Ireland. The proof of this pudding can often be seen in the eating – the early destruction of the English scrum at the Palindrome a case in point (about which more anon).
What we here at WoC find extremely interesting is how he gleans information on the opposing front row and passes it on to his replacement when he gets substituted. We first noticed this during the 6 Nations – instead of seeing the familiar sight of the Bull trundling off and Mushy trundling on, passing with a low 5, we saw Rosser stop Tom Court and talk to him for 30 seconds, replete with actions. A once-off? Why nay, didn’t he do the same thing with Stan Wright in the Toulouse match! Plus it seemed like Wright was listening (unlike Court) – as well he should. And last week, he more or less demonstrated Court’s technique on the Dog Barbecuer 30 minutes into the Ulster game.
We salute Mike Ross, scrum nerd, and leave the last word to him:
“I didn’t sleep well that night or for a couple of days afterwards. Before that I don’t think I gave away a penalty try in eight years. I was fairly raging afterwards.”