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England 'very confident' officials will rule on Boks scrum tactic

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by EJ Langner/Gallo Images)

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New England forwards coach Richard Cockerill has claimed he has every faith in their rookie front-rowers to thrive on Saturday at Twickenham, adding that he hopes they will even get a helping hand from the officials when it comes to refereeing the Springboks engagement at the scrum. The South African set-piece crushed the English when the countries last met two years ago in the World Cup final and there is anxiety that they are now going into this latest fixture with the inexperienced Bevan Rood and Jamie Blamire respectively starting at loosehead and hooker. 

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Cockerill, though, has no such worries about the rookie England pair who will pack down with tighthead Kyle Sinckler and he has every confidence that they will also be given a fair crack at the scrum engagement by a team of officials led by referee Andrew Brace.   

England boss Eddie Jones has already hit out at the Springboks for thinking that his pack is weak and Cockerill has now doubled down on those comments which were made on Thursday when a starting XV showed two changes from the win over the Wallabies last weekend was named.     

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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith
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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith

“Eddie is Eddie and he drives the environment how he wants to drive it. I agree with his comments,” insisted Cockerill, the ex-Leicester and Edinburgh boss who is just two games into his new role as an England assistant. “South Africa think that we are weak. That is fine, that is up to them what they say about that. 

“We have just to do the job that we have prepared to do. I have played for England. You all have your first Test, you all have your first game where you are going to be up against experienced players and you have to go into that well prepared, (with a) great mindset that we are going to take them on, that we are going to match them physically and see where we get to. 

“I have every confidence in Jamie Blamire, every confidence in Bevan Rodd. Bevan came in at the last minute last week, started against Australia, played 70 minutes and did a brilliant job. The only way to get experience is to do it and we have got two young guys that are going to learn, but we are very confident they will compete and do a great job and it is for us to do, for us to prove that we can cope with that pressure and that physicality and we certainly aim to do that.”

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Asked why the Springboks seem to thrive at the scrum engagement, Cockerill explained: “They put a lot of weight across on the bind and they always try and hit and slightly chase through the engagement a little bit early. 

“We are very confident the officials will be on top of that and know what they are looking at, and also we have to match that as well. If at some point the officials can’t control everything, as a front five we have to make sure we control the things that we want to do against them as well.”

That said, England newcomer Cockerill is an admirer of the relentlessly physical way that the Springboks play. “They play how they want to play and they make no apologies for it. They are successful, they are world champions, they win most games that they play. They have got a very experienced forwards pack that is very well drilled. They play how they play. 

“You know, 80 per cent plus of their lineouts are driven and they get a lot of success from that from penalties and march teams up the field. It is very much the most physical test you are going to come across at Test match level. Other teams are physical and fast but play differently. The South Africans, you know they make no apologies for how they are going to play. 

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“They don’t change that game plan very often or at all and they put down the gauntlet of ‘well, we are going to do this, are you good enough to stop us’ and they win games. I have got no qualms about how they play. 

“Fair play to them, they stick to what they do very well. It’s a part of the South African DNA, which I respect, and it’s a great challenge for us to go and match what they throw at us physically and play a game that suits this team to win the game. 

“Physically from a scrum and lineout point of view, there isn’t a harder team to play against in the world at the moment so that is the challenge for us. I don’t think it will be one that we will shy away from. We are looking forward to going into battle with South Africa. We will fire our own bullets and play how we want to play, but there are certainly always points in the game where you have to match your opposition physically.

“They are going to have their own lineout, they are going to have their own scrum put-ins and we are going to have to deal with that challenge and we are looking forward to it. 

“There are a couple of young guys in that front row that are relishing the opportunity to see how good they are and how they compete at this level. We have got a forward pack that will look forward to competing and if they think we have a weakness then that is up to them but we certainly don’t.”  

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