Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can “Einstein” Help Irelands Prop Forwards Against England?


Well there has been a lot of debate about Ireland V England as is the usual muse at this stage of the 6 Nations and whether Sexton and Ford can outwit each other and the England backs are coming to fruition despite their injuries and lack of preparation and anything else that can attempt to either lull everyone into a false sense before the game (that’s what will be said if England win) and to use it as an excuse after, if they lose………As for the Irish, well we have “Saint” Joe Schmidt. Who needs anything else right?

Now I’m not anti-English, my mother is English, I was born there back in the day before becoming a full on half bred, east gael, “Blow-In” as I was recently described lol! This however is personal and I make no apologies that this subject fires me up!

I am interested in just 4 people………..the opposing Prop Forwards, tight heads Dan Cole for England and Mike Ross  for Ireland and loose heads Cian Healy of Ireland and Joe Marler of England. Is there potential for others? Mako Vunipola (loose) and Kieran Brookes (or Henry Thomas who has been brought in as injury cover for Brookes at tight) from England or Jack McGrath (loose) & Marty Moore (tight) for Ireland? Yes I suspect they’ll make the bench for their respective sides, but it’s the starting protagonists I want to take a quick look at today as part of this.

Why am I wanting to look at them? Well as a retired tight head myself, I am obviously always keenly interested in the goings on in the front row. I’m leaving out the Hookers mainly because I don’t want to get into the Dylan Hartley will probably be yellow carded at some point and is an overrated bully at best and should Sean Cronin be starting ahead of Rory Best cos his metre gaining capability is truly awesome but he does has difficulty throwing straight darts and being able to hook? Oh well, that just about covers it, soooo moving on…………


After the debacle in 2012 when the Irish scrum was put to the English sword at Twickenham in 2012 and yes EVERY Irishman, woman and child should watch this 9 Mins & 58 Secs of pain PLUS every Irish player, coach and member of staff should also to remind us all that it shouldn’t ever happen again!! (Yeah it still angers me and fires me up and when I’m going into a meeting or discussions over something difficult, I watch this and get fired up that I won’t be put to the sword by anyone!!)   

Poor Irish tight head Tom Court was annihilated by Alex Corbisiero after replacing Ross getting turned inwards and upwards conceding not only ground but penalties and ultimately a penalty try. Cian Healy was beaten by Dan Cole in the first scrum of the day but then pretty much held his own as you’d expect. Good man Church!

In an interview with Joe Marler who for me is probably the most improved (but NOT the best in that position!) loose head around, he summed up being a prop by stating, “It’s a mindset really, if you’re gonna be a tight-head you have to be strong – to try to take on two people – they are the cornerstone of the scrum basically. All the pressure is coming through that corner of the scrum. They are so valuable and tend to be big, strong men – big backs, big chests and very strong lower bodies as well” He added, “Loose-heads are tough in the scrums but as you are only going against that one guy you haven’t got the same amount of pressure and you usually have a little bit left in the legs to be able to get round the park. That’s what is expected of a modern-day loose-head – more carrying, hit a few more rucks and get round the park.”

Now Dan Cole at tight head against Cian Healy  the Irish loose. Cole whilst a seasoned operator is 27 and has only just come back into the English contention following a lengthy injury. He is a strong and steady tight head prop who has won 47 caps for England and 3 for the Lions but for me, that’s it. He is what you expect from a tight head, strong, sturdy but pretty much one dimensional. Up against the marauding mass that is Healy, I think on this occasion, even with Cian returning from injury, it’ll be far too difficult for Cole to cope with. Cian has the strength to match but the guile and “Cunning o’ the Weasel” as the legendary Bill McClaren would say to outgun Cole  both in the scrum and in loose play. As for metres gained, well that’s a “DJ Church” (Healy) speciality so the nod goes to Ireland here.

Mike Ross 35 now and I’d opine will get a very strong 60 minutes on the park still remains a favourite of Joe Schmidt but can he out-do the rising star in the loose head world, in Marler? Well again I believe the fact that he had some difficulties for Leinster this season against Marler in the Leinster v Quins European games when the Quins skipper ran Ross ragged shouldn’t be taken as a sign of the same to come this Sunday. An excellent scrummager, Marler is always involved in everything. So what does Mike Ross do because to be honest, on performance this season, you’d say our Mike is in for an unpleasant afternoon?? Well he simply needs to keep his side of the scrum steady, locked-out, focus on not giving an inch and when Ireland are on the move either in the scrum or on a rolling maul, be in the right position at the right time and ensure he beats Marler to everything.

Ross needs to keep the same focus, belief and involvement at every stage of the game as he did against Italy and latterly against France. Considering he was effectively dropped by Leinster from pole position at tight head, he has shown remarkable tenacity and perseverance to mark out 2 great displays in the 6 Nations to date. Personally, I will pip our Cork man to overpower Marler, figuratively and literally and come out on top overall. Ross has been undergoing some psychological coaching where he has been told to focus on the previous big games, the successes, changing and developing the winning belief. All this will and does help.

So, there we have it. if Ireland's props get the job done, I believe it will have the same dramatic effect as the English did to us in 2012. Certainly I’d love to see 9 mins 58 secs of Ireland pushing England all round The Aviva this Sunday.

Oh and as for the title, what has Einstein got to do with Prop Forwards and this game? Well firstly it probably grabbed your attention and secondly Einstein developed E=MC² which in essence says that you can convert units of mass into units of energy. Now we have 2 huge “masses” in Healy & Ross. Together their power, strength and above all belief that they can overcome their opponents will turn that MASS into ENERGY. You could say that E=MC² is “Energy in Motion” or E-Motion and it’s that emotion, harnessed, channelled, focused together with the positive belief in themselves that will deliver the decisive victory and build the foundations for a win for Ireland this Sunday.

So this Sunday, whether you are at the Aviva or at home or in the bar, whenever there is a scrum, sit forward in your seat and become another “Virtual” prop pushing with Ross & Healy to glory for Ireland. That’s what I do every game and take it from me, it’ll make you “feel” part of the game, part of the pack, part of the victory at each scrum or maul. The hairs will stand up on your neck and send all that “E-Motion” to those front row guys playing for each one of us. Go on try it……… know you want to!!

The Big Fella
@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management at Digital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)
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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019