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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
James Crombie/INPHO Cian Healy at the bottom of a collapsed scrum.
# painting pictures
'We've got a really good scrum... you don't become a bad scrum overnight'
Ireland hooker Rob Herring believes they can resolve last weekend’s issues in Twickenham.

ALL EYES WILL be focused intently on the first scrum on Saturday in Dublin.

After giving up six penalties and one free-kick there against England last weekend, Ireland’s pack will be out to prove a point. 

Scotland aren’t renowned as the most ferocious scrummagers but they will have watched England’s big performance in this area at Twickenham with interest.

Former France prop Pieter de Villiers is the Scots’ scrum coach and he’ll be keen for his charges to strike an early blow with referee Wayne Barnes set to scrutinise the set-piece this weekend at the Aviva Stadium.

For their part, Ireland know they need to be better after Mathieu Raynal’s calls largely went against them in Twickenham.

“We’ve gone through it all and had feedback from the refs and different coaches and stuff,” says Rob Herring, who came off the bench at hooker last weekend.

“On another day, a few of those decisions might have gone our way, they might not.

“But for us, we can’t be judging ourselves on the decisions, we have to judge ourselves on the pictures we’re painting and the way we manage certain things on the pitch as well.

“We’ve got a really good scrum, we’ve shown that over the years, it’s getting better and better. It’s up there as one of the top scrums, so you don’t become a bad scrum overnight.

a-view-of-a-scrum James Crombie / INPHO England won six penalties and a free-kick at the scrum. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Ultimately, we’ve got to be able to manage the situations and it’s a good learning experience for all of us. It’s something we can look back on and hopefully move forward from.”

So what can they do better?

“A lot of the scrums, for me, were wheeling around and on any given day, that’s a 50/50 decision from a ref,” said Herring.

“If he starts to see or maybe feels there’s a bit of dominance on one side, the decisions start going towards one side.

“You want to keep the scrum square and paint a good, solid picture where there’s not as much movement. That’s one of the things we need to work on.

“When things aren’t going our way and decisions aren’t going our way, to almost assure the ref we aren’t the team involved or that we’re going to get a bit of dominance.”

Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty will be determined to see his players bounce back strongly at the set-piece against Scotland. Anything else would cause real concern for Irish supporters.

Herring also makes the point that Ireland needed to be better in other areas of the game at Twickenham with the scrum struggling.

“If there’s one aspect of the game where we’re being penalised a bit, we’ve got to look after the other aspects of the game. We gave a lot of turnovers in open play and some silly penalties which were avoidable.

“That kind of started piling a bit of pressure on ourselves, compounding the pressure, and that is a good lesson for us as well. There are going to be times, whether it’s the lineout or whatever, where something won’t be going right and being able to ensure that we are on it for other aspects of the game and not compound that pressure.”

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peter-omahony-rob-herring-and-conor-murray-celebrate-winning James Crombie / INPHO Herring helped Ireland to finish strongly. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s impactful bench was important in securing the bonus-point win over England, with Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, and Robbie Henshaw all involved in a powerful final-quarter display.

Herring was among the best of them, playing 27 minutes after replacing Dan Sheehan and very nearly scoring a try as he picked an excellent line off scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, only being stopped by an excellent Sam Simmonds tackle.

“I could have reached for it,” says Herring with a smile. “Then I just thought, ‘It’s probably 50/50 if I reach for it.’ If [Maro] Itoje didn’t infringe, then we probably would have scored the next phase anyway. It was good to get my hands on the ball a bit.”

As well as his five carries, there were two sharp passes and a slick offload from Herring, as the Ulster hooker underlined that he is about more than just the nuts and bolts.

“The game has evolved in the last few years and especially in the way that we are being asked to play as forwards in Ireland,” says Herring.

“We expect to be able to fit in and handle the ball and play to space and all that kind of stuff. It’s something I work very hard on.

“Defence comes to me a lot more naturally than attack but I keep chipping away at it and when I get opportunities I try to get my hands on the ball and see what I can do.”

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