Six Nations: Wales ‘have to be clean in scrum’

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FOR Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde, the secret to success in the scrum is to forget about trying to beat your opponents to the first hit.

“It’s about not giving the referee the opportunity to penalise you, ­especially early in the game,” said the 37-times capped Welsh hooker.

“The ‘early engagement’ has become a big thing for officials, so we have taken the opinion that we have to be squeaky clean there to give us as much opportunity as possible.

“We’re confident in our ability to scrummage so there’s no reason for us to go early but it does mean sometimes you lose the ‘hit’ and we’ve been quite happy to do that on occasion rather than err the other way.

“It’s a fine line but we’re not going to go early now because of the way it’s refereed. We just rely on our ability to take the hit, regather ourselves and stand firm. The scrum should be stable. It shouldn’t be moving. So that’s the approach we’ve taken and, in the last few games in particular, it has paid off.”

Welsh 30-year-old loosehead Paul James is not the most lauded prop in the tournament, but his ability, along with hooker Richard Hibbard, to outfox Euan Murray was central to nullifying Scotland’s ability to use the scrum as the attacking platform they had expected.

“You just have to be smart with the scrum,” James said. “At the start Scotland went a bit early, and we knew we just had to hold our discipline and not be drawn in to trying to beat them to the hit, and it paid off. There were a couple of 50/50 calls that went against us, which we felt were harsh, but you have to take those because the ref’s not going to get it right every time.”

Having moved to a new set of referee calls, “Crouch, Touch, Pause and Engage”, to aid safety in the scrums, and last year shortened that to “Crouch, Touch and Set”, on advice from players, the IRB will trial another alteration in the upcoming Pacific Nations Cup. It adds the requirement for props to bind onto their opposite numbers at the “touch” stage, before the scrum comes together.

James added: “I think the new call [crouch, touch and set] is better than the old ‘pause and engage’, because it gives you time to get set and solid ­before engaging and, whatever change they make now, you still have to go with the ref.

“Against Scotland, he [referee Craig Joubert] came in and warned both teams ­before the game, so we knew he was watching for early engagements.

“And we had watched Scotland in the championship and saw them going early. The scrum is all about the timing and the speed, and discipline, but it’s not for me to say how Scotland fix it – that’s for them to work on.”