Getting the most from your props

With quicker resets for scrums, France 2011 World Cup forwards coach Didier Retiere reveals how you can boost the effectiveness of your tight head.

You don’t always need to have the biggest players in your pack to be successful. Technique and power can compensate for lack of size, as we proved at the 2011 World Cup.

The French props were among the smallest there but I boosted our success rate in two simple ways.

The first was to get the props scrummaging without a hooker in training to see if they were in the correct body shape (see picture 1).

If the tight head is not straight, we quickly see his problem. When I was coaching this technique to some experienced props in Argentina, one asked me to translate this into English twice, because they did not believe I wanted them to do it.

Sometimes in training sessions, I even ask players not to bind onto each other across the rows. We can then correct bad body positions more easily. When I first introduced this idea, the players were amazed. However, they soon understood the reasoning.

Before a tight head binds onto the hooker, he has to consider his own body position when engaging with the opposition. There is a danger that in trying to bind tightly to the hooker, he loses his shape. I like to take the All Black approach: Body position comes first, then the bind.

So, since the tight head bind on the hooker is the most important (he faces two players, unlike the loosehead), he should bind first. My second tweak is for the tight head to bind onto the shorts of the hooker and the loosehead onto the jersey (see picture 2).

Pick the right prop for the job

We delivered the best service to the backs with clean ball at RWC2011. You have to balance picking scrummaging props against props that can fit into a style of play around the field.

If we picked big players, they may have struggled to move into the positions we wanted during phase play or defence, so we went for mobile props who could scrummage low.

They had to have flexible ankles and bodies to get themselves in the right shapes to do this.

Our second rows are not big men either. They also have to be flexible and work very closely with the front row.

So close did the tight five become that the scrum acted as one player.

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