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You simply can't expose Australia's next tier of props to the might of the Crusaders

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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They’d love to go Golden Oldies in Australia.


To turn rugby into tiddlywinks or touch and just have a nice old run around with none of the contact.

Who else in the rugby world would moot the idea of uncontested scrums but Australia?

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Thankfully a sane person, in the shape of the Wallabies’ New Zealand coach Dave Rennie, exists and hopefully has the power to knock this absurd idea on the head.

In case you missed it, Covid is being rolled out as a potential reason why Australia’s Super Rugby Pacific sides might not be able to play matches with contested scrums.

Tighthead props don’t grow on trees, apparently, and if Covid-positive rates increase, then Australia’s teams might have to reluctantly waive the scrummaging white flag.
Give me strength.

It’s a safety issue, you see. Yep, as Brumbies coach Dave McKellar explained it, you simply can’t expose Australia’s next tier of props to the might of the Crusaders.


Wouldn’t the odd Hurricanes team like to have employed that tactic over the years? To say little Johnny is too crook to travel to Christchurch, hence we can’t pack a proper scrum.

But why stop here? No, let’s take this Covid crap to its logical conclusion. All our first five-eighths and fullbacks are in isolation, so we can’t goalkick this week.

It’s just not safe to ask one of our non-scrummaging props to kick for goal. They might pull a hammy.

Oh, that’s right. Because there’s no actual scrums, we’re not picking actual props. No, we’ve got flankers playing in the frontrow this week.


Hey, and while we’re at it guys, any chance we can just play 13 a-side? Turns out our skill set is better suited to rugby league than rugby.

A report out of Sydney suggests Australia’s propping stocks are so thin, that it’s either uncontested scrums or the forfeit of games. You pick, New Zealand Rugby (NZR).

Rennie has since been quoted as saying he’s not been party to Rugby Australia’s preliminary discussions on the issue, and hopes it won’t come to that.

Worryingly, though, he did concede a few props would be “excited’’ by the prospect of having games go Golden Oldies.

Honestly, if scrummaging is such a chore for these blokes, then they’re in the wrong game.

I’ve taken the piss a bit here but, in the fair dinkum stakes, NZR needs to resist the notion of uncontested scrums in the strongest possible terms.

Even with every elite prop fit and available, Super Rugby Pacific is not great test preparation for the All Blacks’ tight five. And, frankly, those men need all the help they can get, following the team’s underwhelming performances in Europe last season.

New Zealand’s pack was made to look second-rate on that trip and have vast improvements to make if they have designs on becoming Rugby World Cup champions next year.

Although, wait, they’re already halfway there, apparently. Yep, the All Blacks had no idea what the strengths and weaknesses of the Northern Hemisphere teams would be, but that’s all sorted now because former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has joined the brains’ trust.

If only we’d known Ireland and France had a bit of grunt up front.

Rugby risks making itself look ridiculous here. Contested scrums are, at least in my view, the very cornerstone of the game.

Scrummaging is an art – that can be taught – and critical to the outcome of games. So much attacking play is generated off set-pieces these days and, if yours are weak, then you’re going to get pumped.

Equally, when yours are strong, then the game is there for the taking.

Let’s not dumb things down, let’s not artificially protect the weak from the strong. Let’s try and earn our money as coaches and high-performance pathway experts and actually prepare our props for their primary role.

Throwing your hands in the air and saying it’s all a bit hard, simply isn’t good enough.


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