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The upside to why Jones thinks 'rugby is a s*** sport sometimes'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Harlequins assistant Adam Jones has explained why he thinks rugby is a crap sport at times but even that negative aspect has its upside in providing opportunities to other players. The ex-Wales and Lions prop is scrum coach at the 2021 Gallagher Premiership champions and he accepts that as terrible as injuries are, the positive is that a door can open for someone else to get a chance in the team and thrive.

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This is what has happened at Harlequins regarding their tighthead position. When the Londoners swaggered their way 15 months ago to the second league title of their history, Wilco Louw was the force of nature driving on their scrum. He started 19 matches in that league campaign and so effective was he that the Springboks capped him versus Argentina in August 2021, two years after he has last appeared internationally for his country.

Last season, though, wasn’t what Louw would have hoped for. He started just three games in the league but the injuries he suffered had a silver lining for Harlequins as Will Collier emerged from the South African’s shadow to show his scrum prowess which took him all the way back into the England squad, a level of rugby where he hadn’t been capped since 2017.

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Collier ultimately didn’t bridge that five-year international gap but Jones has savoured the overall increased level of competition for the Harlequins tighthead berth, a position where the pendulum has now swung back the way of Louw for this Sunday’s trip to Exeter after Collier was an early casualty in last Saturday’s home loss to Saracens.

“Rugby is a s*** sport sometimes around injuries but it gives people a chance to stake their claim and show what they can do and when they take it it’s good,” said Jones. “To be fair, Wilco started the season we won (the title) and last year he played a few games and had a few injuries. Will came in and took his chance. It was almost to the point where we couldn’t not pick Will because he was so dominant. With every team he was coming up against, we were on top in that area.

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“He [Collier] went from three years ago being probably the most penalised to now winning the most penalties. The turnaround has been fantastic for him,” continued Jones about the No3 area of the team that last weekend’s required an early first-half change. “Will hurt his knee. Nothing definite yet. It looked painful. It was frustrating because the first two scrums we had a real crack at them [Saracens] and we got a good penalty off one and why it wasn’t a penalty off the other I don’t know. He has been great, he was very unlucky not to tour in the summer (with England) and I hope it’s not too bad.”

Asked what the rivalry between Louw and Collier is like at Harlequins, Jones quipped with a laugh: “They hate each other. No, they are great to work with and it is good for us the fact that we have got those two there and Simon Kerrod, who has been playing loosehead, can come back across and play tighthead so there is a good stable of props at the moment.

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“We have had a pretty good scrum the last few years so we know it is going to be targeted and teams are going to try and disrupt it, so it is on us to keep on top of it and keep driving standards. The fact we have all these quality props when it comes to training, whoever is in, it is so competitive and that does drive the standards. It’s a good scrum environment, a pleasure to do the work.”

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finn 5 hours ago
Mick Cleary: 'England fans are entitled to be grumpy and weary'

“no stand-out talent that would trouble the selectors of a world XV. Until that status changes, then they will be confined to this mid-table (at best) mediocrity.” I really think this is nonsense analysis. Finn Russell isn’t better than George Ford. Jamie George is the third best hooker in the world after Marx and Sheehan. Ben Earl would probably start for any team in the world bar Ireland, and the same goes for Ollie Lawrence when he’s in form. The problem England have is (1) people hate their style of play, so will always overlook players like Ford and George when comparing them with more flashy alternatives; (2) that people expect England to be one of the best teams in the world, so when they fall short it is held against them. Finn Russell has far more poor games than George Ford, but because Scotland aren’t expected to be consistently winning trophies it isn’t a scandal when he does play badly. Conversely if Ben Earl was playing for scotland, or wales, or italy, everyone would be blown away by his performances, but because he’s only playing slightly better than we expect english back row players to play then he’s not given the plaudits he arguably deserves. I say “arguably” because ultimately I don’t think it matters whether we value individual players accurately or not. I’m not aggrieved that english players don’t get selected in world XVs, I just don’t think its a good explanation of a nation’s performances!

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