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Why the Lions bent the ear of scrum expert Mike Cron this week

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Lions forward coach Robin McBryde has admitted he spent more than half an hour talking scrums this week to Mike Cron, the World Rugby set-piece consultant who coached the All Blacks in 210 Test matches before stepping away from that work with the Kiwis in 2019. The scrum was viewed as a huge area of the game for Warren Gatland’s tourists following the demolition job which the Springboks carried out on England in the World Cup final.  

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It started dubiously for all concerned in last weekend’s first Test, referee Nic Berry getting forced to allow numerous scrum resets as the softness of the Cape Town pitch resulted in players slipping rather than being able to scrum properly in the early exchanges, but that issue settled down the longer the game went on and the Lions enjoyed some good second-half moments in that area. 

Despite this encouraging effort, McBryde still took time out this week to chew the set-piece fat with Cron in the hope that the feedback received could help the Lions improve in time for this Saturday’s second Test rematch where the expectation is that the Springboks will try their damndest to get the series-levelling win. 

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“I had a conversation with Mike Cron on Tuesday morning just surrounding the scrum,” said Lions assistant McBryde. “Mike Cron is used as a consultant for World Rugby and is a great sounding board. Everybody in World Rugby knows Mike from a scrummaging point of view. 

“I was on the call with Mike for well over half an hour in order to gain his views on a couple of things that I was keen to find out on. I can only speak from my own experience this week. Joel (Jutge, referees boss) has been in touch with Warren with regard to some clips that he wanted clarity on as well, so the process hasn’t been any different to what I have experienced in the past internationally. 

“It was the same during the 2019 World Cup. I can only say I’m really happy with the way the week has gone and we weren’t surprised by anything that happened on Saturday with Nic Berry and we had a good conversation with the referees on Thursday. We’re genuinely happy with the way the process has gone this week.”

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Scrum penalties were awarded last Saturday against Springboks duo Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe, as well as Lions loosehead Rory Sutherland, and while the initial main scrum talking point was how the turf struggled to hold firm, McBryde insisted the surface shouldn’t be a factor in this weekend’s second Test and added it wasn’t much of talking point when the Lions met referee Ben O’Keeffe and his team of officials on Thursday.  

“We were disappointed with the first couple of exchanges we had in the scrum but everybody got to grips with that surface, especially the second half. It was pretty soft, softer in certain areas of the field, so it was just constant messages with regard to keeping our feet under us a bit more, making sure we get good purchase with studs in the ground. 

“We saw a couple of instances where after the hit our feet just slipped back. The referee made the right decisions. Sometimes it was just ‘listen, boys, it’s a slip, let’s go again’. They are aware that the surface isn’t great. However, it is possible to scrummage on it as we saw in the second half in particular where you saw a good competition at scrum time. 

“It will be the same this week. Both packs are more than aware of that but I don’t think it’s an excuse for numerous collapses. You may get one or two as you always do. Following that it will be a good spectacle. It [the pitch] wasn’t made a big thing of it really (at the referees meeting).

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“It has been a dry week here and it’s going to be dry from here on into the game so hopefully that will help it… I don’t think it’s going to be a big thing in the game.”

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Why the Lions bent the ear of scrum expert Mike Cron this week

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