Ireland will once again set out to prove that bigger is not necessarily better in Test rugby when they tackle the might of South Africa on Saturday. And, as if to emphasise the point, their coach, Eddie O'Sullivan, yesterday lashed out at the modern scrum's obsession with size.
"Due to all the rule changes of what the tight head can and can't do, the scrum is now basically won and lost on the hit," said O'Sullivan after announcing his side for the autumn series opener at Lansdowne Road. "If you get a big hit on the opposition, you won't have much problem winning the scrum.
"All you have to do is drive the opposing prop's head down into his spine as far as you can and win that collision. That has precipitated the teams picking very big props, who engage from as far away as possible and then charge in like the Light Brigade."
As O'Sullivan admits that the set piece is about the only weakness in his Triple-Crowners' armoury there will be an inevitable scream of "sour grapes", although he insisted that there is a safety issue in his argument as the number of back and neck injuries being sustained by front-row forwards increases to alarming levels.
"As a parent, you wouldn't encourage your child to be a front-rower for this reason," he said. "So, I don't think it's a good trend. Once wily, small, smart props would do very well at the highest level because they could scrummage. But it's all about collision and not technique now. And yes, genetically we don't produce guys of a huge physique and that's why we struggle in this area."
Elsewhere, O'Sullivan has no such worries. The hooker Jerry Flannery is the only frontliner unavailable through injury and therefore the only change from the Irish first XV which performed so admirably in the summer Tests. Rory Best, of Ulster, steps in.
* The Scotland coach, Frank Hadden, has given new caps to the Edinburgh centre Rob Dewey and Glasgow No 8 John Beattie for the Test against Romania at Murrayfield on Saturday. The 23-year-old Dewey, one of six Edinburgh backs in the team, has been in impressive form as his physical presence and powerful running have caused problems for midfield opponents.
Scotland (v Romania, Murrayfield, Saturday, 2.30): H Southwell (Edinburgh); S Webster (Edinburgh), M Di Rollo (Edinburgh), R Dewey (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Northampton Saints); P Godman (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Border Reivers), D Hall (Edinburgh), E Murray (Glasgow Warriors), N Hines (Perpignan), S Murray (Edinburgh), J White (Sale Sharks, capt), J Beattie (Glasgow Warriors), K Brown (Border Reivers). Replacements: S Lawson (Glasgow Warriors), A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), C Smith (Edinburgh), J Hamilton (Leicester Tigers), D Callam (Edinburgh), C Cusiter (Border Reivers), C Paterson (Edinburgh).
Ireland (v South Africa, Lansdowne Road, Saturday, 5.00): G Dempsey; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (captain), G D'Arcy (all Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); R O'Gara, P Stringer ; M Horan (all Munster), R Best (Ulster), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (all Munster), N Best (Ulster), D Wallace, D Leamy (both Munster). Replacements: F Sheahan (Munster), B Young (Ulster), M O'Kelly (Leinster), S Easterby (Llanelli), I Boss (Ulster), P Wallace (Ulster), G Murphy (Leicester).Reuse content