The change in the scrummage interpretation, which forces scrum-halves now to put the ball into the tunnel straight, has brought a significant new focus on the old art of hooking the ball. It had disappeared as scrum-halves fed the ball straight into the second row, bypassing the hookers, who simply became a third prop and pushed.
Ford became one of the strongest hookers in world rugby but, with the change, his inability to hook as well as smaller men and coaches’ insistence on him using his bulk instead to drive over the ball, has cost Scotland a few scrummage issues in recent games.
Lawson is five inches shorter than Ford and two stone lighter, but he returns for what will be his 41st cap, with Ford on the bench for second- half impact, desperate for the challenge of beating the Azzurri pack at scrum-time.
“Challenge is what you want to do, why you play the game and do everything you do,” he said. “It is why you want to play for Scotland. A start in the Six Nations is what I want. There is no added pressure or responsibility against Italy compared to playing against England or Ireland, France or Wales or whoever you play. You have got to approach each Test match as being special. I am just looking forward to Saturday and playing in that game.
“I have been very patient over the last two, three, four years. Ross has had the lion’s share of the No 2 jersey. I have been involved and have had the odd Test here and there, but I have not been where I want to be. I have been on the bench or not in the squad when you want to start Test matches. But now I have been given an opportunity. I feel my form has been really good for Newcastle and have enjoyed working with Dean Richards and John Wells down there.
“I have a consistency and a maturity to my game now that I probably did not have three or four years ago, and I am looking forward to it on Saturday.”
That maturity is a key factor which often results in front rows becoming more adept as they head into their 30s and, at 32, the hooker from Biggar, who has played most of his career in the Aviva Premiership with Sale, Gloucester, London Irish and now Newcastle, is confident that his ability will prove more important than his size in what is now regarded a 6ft-plus man’s world.
“I will certainly be hooking,” Lawson said. “That’s what I do and I’ve really always done that even though the game has changed a bit, because that’s how I developed. Definitely the new scrum laws have taken the brute force and ignorance out of it, if you want.
“It has become a more technical element to the game compared to how it was a few years ago. I don’t think it has necessarily sped the game up, there are still resets and that is just as slow, but it is definitely more technical.”
He added: “Getting selected is the first part; it is all about Saturday now. I can talk about what I have done previously, but I will be judged on Saturday.”
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