FRASER Brown has warned Glasgow that they will need to produce a complete scrummaging performance if they are to withstand the vaunted power of a Toulouse pack, considered by some as the most powerful in world rugby.
Glasgow will travel to the south of France looking to emulate arguably their most famous European victory in January 2009 – a 33-26 success over Guy Noves’ side. The big difference this time around is that the Warriors lead the Pool 4 table and are in a strong position to continue their attempt to qualify for the knock-out stages of European rugby’s top tournament.
Five years ago Glasgow had lost all four of their previous pool fixtures and were already playing with reckless abandon while their exalted French opposition had their passage to the last eight all but booked.
But as he contemplated the prospect of scrumming down against a possible Toulouse front-row of Samoan behemoth Census Johnston, South African man-mountain Guthro Steenkamp and his likely direct opponent the former All Black hooker Corey Flynn, Brown was adamant that Glasgow have the power to cope with the formidable French pack.
“Up until the weekend our scrum has been up and down in a few games, maybe 40 minutes of good scrummaging and then a few bad scrums and we know we will not get away with that on Sunday in Toulouse,” admitted Brown.
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“So something we have put emphasis on is our concentration, we cannot go in and scrum really well on our own five metre line and then go 30 metres up the pitch and slacken-off. There was a big emphasis on that at the weekend, it showed because we got four penalties and could have had a few more.
“It is something we will put an even bigger emphasis on in scrummaging this week. We know how Toulouse scrum, we have reviewed it so it is a case of getting our drills right, getting our height right and making sure we are concentrating for every scrum. If we can do that we will give ourselves every chance.
“But whatever permutation we play it is pretty much an all international front row, the same with the second row and back row, with maybe one or two who have not played internationally, but that is it.
“So we are confident that the way we scrummage, if we scrummage well it does not matter who we come up against. There are always going to be one or two or three in a game where you don’t quite get the rub of the green, miss the engage or don’t get the pressure right.
“So it will be about holding that scrum, flushing it and going to the next one and applying yourself, making sure that you get solid ball. Hopefully we can see that through on Sunday.”
While Glasgow’s scrum was influential in the 19-15 victory over the Dragons on Sunday, in a Guinness Pro12 context, that superiority was put in jeopardy as Irish referee Dudley Phillips seemed to change his opinion of the Warriors’ scrumming technique as the game progressed, yet Brown believes that the first quarter is likely to provide a barometer of the way the wind is blowing with John Lacey, the former Munster wing, who will take charge this Sunday afternoon at the Stade Ernest Wallon.
“A scrum can collapse and you get ten different people saying ten different things. The ref has an incredibly hard job but what we are trying to do in every game is have the most stable legal scrum possible and let the referee know that we are trying to stay legal,” said Brown.
“We don’t want a pushing contest, we want to play rugby and get the ball out. Referees will interpret that how they want but the way we started on Sunday was good, Dudley Phillips obviously saw that we were in the ascendancy — whether he changed his mind in the second half or whether he saw something he did not agree with, you would have to ask him.
“But the most important thing for us is working out how the referee is going to interpret the scrums in the first 15-20 minutes and then to do all we can to make sure we have a stable scrum and the most legal scrum.”
Yet with Dougie Hall still not fully-fit it is certain that Brown will either start ahead of Pat McArthur or deputise for him, as the 25 year-old continues his rise to the top of the No 2s pecking order after his impressive cameo role understudying Ross Ford in the last two Autumn Internationals.
It is clear that Brown views the opportunity to ply his trade against such quality European opposition as another key part of his increasingly impressive learning ascent. He said: “If you look at the Top 14 a lot of the French sides try to get a penalty out of every scrum, we look to play rugby off the back of the scrum.
“If we have a powerful scrum, we want to go forward and exploit the space in the backline. The French like to get penalties, kick it into the corner and set up line out drives and line out attacks, so they probably see it in a slightly different way, not that it is a positive or negative from the way we see it, just different.
“But we want to play what is in front of us, if there is space to use that space. Whatever 23 get the chance to go there, it is an amazing opportunity and an amazing place to play but we have to go there and perform.”
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