“If England are bested in the scrum they will not win this game.” Not too many would have disagreed with Brian Moore, and yet they were, and they did. That fact is surely not lost on Joe Schmidt, who will be hugely disappointed to have enjoyed such dominance at the set piece and yet came away empty handed.
Given that David Wilson had played barely over a half of rugby in the two months preceding the match, it seemed safe to assume that he would struggle with the pace, and he did somewhat, but it was right from the start where he was in trouble against Cian Healy. The Bath tighthead has generally been considered to have a slight edge on Dan Cole in terms of scrum power, though you wouldn’t think so based on this showing. How much credit can be given to Healy as opposed to Wilson’s relative inexperience with the new engage sequence is worth considering.
SCRUM #1 – 00:45 – Lost
An ominous sign as England are smashed straight off the ball for an early penalty in favour of Ireland.
SCRUM #2 – 26:25 – Lost
Free kick awarded to Ireland for a ‘hit & chase’ penalty, i.e. pushing before the ball has been put in.
SCRUM #3 – 32:30 – Won
England are driven back again, but Craig Joubert penalises Ireland for ‘spinning on the axis’, i.e. not driving straight, or in the old language ‘intentionally wheeling’. In the replay the ruling appears debateable as Healy was clearly dominating Wilson.
SCRUM #4 – 37:40 – Won
Wilson is driven back but manages to hold, and England get a second shove in to improve their position, albeit wheeled in the wrong direction. Ben Morgan picks to secure scrappy possession at the back.
SCRUM #5 – 45:55 – Lost
Healy smashes Wilson into the ground and wins the penalty.
SCRUM #6 – 55:25 – Won
Hartley manages to get a quick strike in and Morgan flicks a wild pass out the back as the scrum goes backwards.
SCRUM #7 – 69:15 – Lost
The English scrum is obliterated but instead of a penalty Joubert awards a scrum turnover for the wheel. On the replay Tom Wood is clearly shown with a hand in the ruck, a further penalty offense missed by the officials.
SCRUM #8 – 71:40 – Won
Henry Thomas now on for England, up against Jack McGrath, and the scrum creaks but Morgan again cleans up from the back.
SCRUM #9 – 74:45 – Won
England’s best scrum of the match, rock solid, and it’s Thomas doing the job.