“We, the big guys, see a scrum differently”

Ireland and Lions alumnus Nick Popplewell posted an interesting analysis on the intricacies of scrum and how a solid set piece is always a weapon where a tight head is the unsung hero of the set. of the peloton. It was in the 1990s when the first Irish rower was in his pomp, winning 48 caps for his country and also starting all three tests against the All Blacks on the 1993 Lions tour of New Zealand.

Popplewell ended his career as the winner of the Premiership title in England with Newcastle before returning to Ireland and entering the residential auction in Wexford.

He has retained his interest in rugby and will look forward to the U20 Six Nations Championship this year as his son Ben, who follows in his father’s footsteps, has been included in the Irish squad.

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In the meantime, Popplewell posted a long synopsis of the melee to his followers on his LinkedIn page, which drew plenty of comments after highlighting the enduring importance of the centerpiece, mentioning how it was the deciding factor in the third series. Test last August between the Springboks and the Lions.

He ended his post by including a photo from his days at Newcastle showing a referee setting up a scrum. Highlighting what he described as a good, healthy gap between the respective first rows ahead of their engagement, Popplewell signed by declaring his surprise that this kind of extra gap has not been reintroduced into the game since Covid arrived. .

Scrum aficionados keep reading: here’s all of what Popplewell had to say. “A loose head is as good as a tight head and vice versa. I laugh when I hear the big guys and the good guys doing their best to look competent when analyzing the scrum. Invariably, it’s the coward who gets the applause when in fact it’s the tight one who is the unsung hero.

“When a scrum takes the shape of a pear, it’s poor No.3 who is blamed first as most of the weight goes through his side and you see him backing up. The scrum, no matter how big and good try to change the rules to make things easier, can still be the deciding factor for games won and lost (third Lions Test vs South Africa), ”continued Popplewell, warming to his analysis. .

“The simplest option in the analysis is that if a scrum is in difficulty, the # 1 or # 3 is incompetent and should be replaced. We folks see a scrum differently. If we see a prop in trouble, we obviously check its size, back, and feet. Once we’re happy with that, we verify that the back row is in strong pushing positions and is in fact pushing, without just focusing on crucifying the opposing half.

“Then we take a look at the second rows to see where they are. Are they positioned low on the attachment with the back straight and do they fit properly? Once the above is in order, we take a look at how the collective unity works. Are they together and are they on time and are they hitting the fray as one?

“Sometimes when an opposition has a particularly strong scrum a pack has to be chosen with that in mind, a light and lanky second row has to be replaced with a ‘doorstop’, someone from Jim Glennon / Brian Rigney / Mick Galwey / Moule Aidan Higgins (jostling in front of these legends was like sitting in an armchair!) The door stopper should be placed behind the watertight head.

“Yes, you are losing speed in the park, but the others will have to compensate. A week of melee is demoralizing, difficult to attack and defend. A strong melee is a very powerful weapon!

“Years ago we tried to fix it by applying some of the ‘dark arts’ of scrum (a slap or a head butt, or two or three!) But times have changed and TMO has to justify it. his free weekend.

“Finally, if all else failed we (the big guys) would begrudgingly accept Channel One Ball, which literally meant admitting defeat and the ball would go straight in and come straight out of the scrum through an open spread hopefully. “Being picked and knocked out by our scrum half. It was a great attacking ball, but not for the faint hearted.”

“The photo is one of my days in Newcastle. The late Paul van Zandvliet with a tight head, our unsung hero, had no reverse and 19 stone No.6 Peter Walton of Scotland was luckily on my side of the fray. His motto was the scrum first, crucify someone next… (notice the good and healthy gap in the scrum. Surprised he wasn’t reintroduced with Covid).

Popplewell melee in Newcastle
(Photo via Nick Popplewell / LinkedIn)

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