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How 'one of the most penalised props' is now so dominant for Quins

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images for Harlequins)

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Scrum coach Adam Jones has hailed the transformation this season at Harlequins by their 30-year-old tighthead Will Collier. The prop has been with the London club since 2009 and was capped twice by Eddie Jones’ England on their 2017 tour to Argentina. However, it is only now with more than 200 appearance on the clock for Quins that he has taken his play onto another level to leave Jones puzzled why he hasn’t been recalled at Test level.

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Springboks front-rower Wilco Louw was the first-choice tighthead last term when Harlequins stormed to Gallagher Premiership glory, but that success has spurred Collier on and he has now taken taken the shirt from the South African – starting in 13 of his 17 league appearances and wearing the No3 jersey in three European outings, something he will do again this Saturday when Montpellier visit The Stoop. 

It was February 1 when the Collier flourish was rewarded by “a new long-term deal” at Harlequins and scrum coach Jones, the former Lions and Wales tighthead, was effusive in his appraisal of the player when asked at this week’s club media briefing to describe the transformation that has taken place in the last year. 

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“With Will, I knew of him when I first came to the club,” explained Jones, who initially joined Harlequins as a player in 2015 and was a teammate of Collier before transitioning into a coaching role. “It was an attraction coming to the club to work with him and the others. With him, this last season has been a standout season for him. 

“He is maturing, he is believing in himself more which sometimes can be a massive part. He has gone from a couple of seasons ago probably being one of the most penalised props in the league to I don’t think he has given a penalty away all year and he has won us God knows how many. What he has done is brilliant.

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“It has probably been a big challenge for him. We know how Wilco Louw went last year and Will has stepped up to the challenge and more to show he is the most dominant tighthead in the Premiership, certainly scrum-wise. His face doesn’t really fit with England at the moment, which is a funny one for me because he has been so good. He has probably matured a lot. He has always been a good player but what he has done is he has now got a lot of confidence.

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“He is backing himself from the strides he made at the end of last term when he was coming off the bench and destroying people to like now where he is doing it for the first sort of 50 minutes. It’s the most competitive I have seen him, which is massive thing him wanting to play every week, wanting to be the starter, keeping ahead of Wilco and he is doing a great job.

“It’s all down to me – I don’t want to blow too much smoke up his arse, it’s all down to me,” quipped Jones with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. “No, he changed a few bits (in his technique) but without going to far into it, he is just backing himself really and believing he is as good as I certainly know he is and I know he can get even better as well. He has been excellent this year.”

The improvement of Collier has occurred in tandem with the increasing potency of the scrum that Jones has nurtured at Harlequins. Some rugby fans and commentators are fed up with this particular set-piece, branding it a time-wasting eyesore, but the assistant coach is adamant that the scrum is still a treasured part of the sport and is an invaluable weapon for most trophy-winning teams.  

“It’s still a massive part of the game and as much as some people don’t like it and I am sure some people want to get rid of it, it is a source of penalties and points for us. We have won the most scrum penalties in the Premiership, we’re certainly in the top two, and we have got best ball winning scrum in the Premiership. 

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“The fact that you have your Marcus (Smith), your (Joe) Marchant, Danny Care, we have got that double edge sword and we want to use them because they are so good attacking. It’s like the old French saying – no scrum, no win. You look at the teams over the years who have ever done anything and have won stuff, they have always had a good scrum. 

“A few Australians teams in the past didn’t have a great scrum, but you (generally) have to have a great scrum. We work hard on it, we work pretty smart on it. It’s not like the olden days where you do a million scrums on a Tuesday and you have a big scrap. We don’t do that. 

“We have got good personnel, we have got boys like Collier, who has been brilliant for us, Joe Marler, these guys, and Jack Walker has been brilliant. He came from Bath, hadn’t played much there, but he fitted in seamlessly. And then Simon Kerrod, who is a tighthead. He had a game at loosehead and was so dominant against Worcester, got four or five penalties at the scrum and we have kept him there. 

“What we do say when we train is it is incredibly competitive, we try to train it as hard for matchday and the knock-on effect has been pretty good in games for us. Coming into this business end of the season you need it. As I said you don’t win much without a good scrum.” 

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