Mind Games

'It will provide motivation for Cian' - Schmidt defends legality of Ireland's scrum

Japan have suggested that Ireland’s scrum is illegal on the loosehead side.

JAPAN PROP YUSUKE Kizu might be having a few regrets right now about his comments regarding Cian Healy’s scrummaging.

The 23-year-old tighthead, who is not in Japan’s matchday 23 to face Ireland on Saturday, suggested earlier this week that the Ireland loosehead has been getting away with illegal play at the set-piece.

“Their loosehead prop sort of steps out, so they try to attack from the side,” said Kizu. “That’s my impression of the scrum.”

cian-healy Healy in the gym with Ireland this week. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Joe Schmidt, needless to say, wasn’t very impressed with what the inexperienced Japan prop had to say for himself.

After naming his 23 to face the Brave Blossoms in Shizuoka on Saturday, Schmidt defended the legality of Ireland’s scrummaging in great technical detail and underlined that Kizu’s jibe will only serve to fire Healy up.

“It’s hard to step out when you’ve got your right shoulder out and you’re nice and square,” said Schmidt. “I think we’re probably, if not the least, one of the least-penalised scrums in international rugby. I think we do our very best to scrum square.

“We don’t step left. Sometimes it’s impossible not to step left when the opposition does it because the scrum operates on an axis and if the centre of that axis is moved by the opposition, then it’s pretty much impossible when you get shifted, not to shift your left foot.

“In any situation, you could show scrums where any team has taken a slight left step because it’s happened on the far side of the scrum. Because the axis pivots on Besty [hooker Rory Best] for us and obviously Shota Horie for them, if it does shift, then the scrum is one being and everyone shifts a little bit.

“Certainly, what was said by Kizu was a big surprise for us.

“It will probably provide a little motivation for Cian when it comes to the game on Saturday.”

joe-schmidt-ahead-of-the-game Schmidt defended Healy and Ireland's scrummaging. Craig Mercer / INPHO Craig Mercer / INPHO / INPHO

Over at Japan’s team announcement press conference a couple of hours later, Japan coach Jamie Joseph indicated that Kizu’s lack of experience with the media had perhaps led to his comment, but the head coach did stress again their belief that Ireland are not always legal at scrum time.

“I think, first thing, Kizu is a young man, probably his first media experience, so that would be the first thing around Kizu-san,” said Joseph.

“We’re coming up against a very strong scrum. Yes, at times they are illegal, but at all times they are a very strong scrum.

“We know that’s a difficult part of the game, but we’ve really improved our scrum and lineout recently. And it’s an area we’ve been focusing on all week.”

Over to you, Angus Gardner.

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