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‘No scrum, no win’ – Fogarty on the lessons from 2022

After Ireland felt the full force of the English front row on their last visit to Twickenham, John Fogarty is keeping the message simple.

“No scrum, no win,” the Ireland scrum coach says, repeating the French rugby mantra.

While Ireland were 32-15 winners in London in 2022, they did so in spite of a scrum that was dismantled by Eddie Jones’ side, who had lost second row Charlie Ewels to a red card inside two minutes.

Ireland gave away five penalties and a free-kick off a total of nine scrums that evening, and it contributed heavily to the hosts kicking 15 points off the tee, which for 65 minutes had England within reach of a victory.

“I would hope not to replicate what happened last time around,” Fogarty adds, ahead of their return to Twickenham to face England on Saturday.

“I don’t want to think about having to deal with that again. This team is a good side.

“We can score some points and all that, but we want to improve every week and we want to put a better version of ourselves on the field than in the previous games.

“But I’m not letting that get into my mind.”

Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty

In the week after their win at Twickenham in 2022, the Irish coaches were at pains to stress that their feedback from referee Mathieu Raynal was that he had got some of those decisions wrong, but issues around the scrum have still peppered this Ireland team in the last two years.

There has been a lot of scrutiny over the angles of Ireland loosehead Andrew Porter at the setpiece, and he fell foul of referee Wayne Barnes in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand in October.

Again, the Ireland players and management felt hard done by with those decisions, but with the scrum battle often being more about perception than reality, there was an acceptance by Fogarty before the start of this championship that they needed to tailor their approach to suit the officials.

The numbers back it up.

“On our own ball, we’re at 94% launch which is top of the pile,” he says.

“It sounds good, but we can’t rely on a good performance against Wales or that 94% [this weekend], because it doesn’t mean anything really.

“We have to train in the right way this week for England, deal with power and chaos and all that stuff. We’re in an okay place, but there’s more in us and we’re in a great place to deliver it.

“I guess it’s very important, and against Italy, I think, including free-kicks, we got five decisions and we got two or three against Wales, so we’re still not where we want to be at scrum time but we’re delivering in a way that we’re offering something to the team.”

When Ireland coughed up penalty after penalty in the 2022 fixture at Twickenham, it stemmed largely from how England exploited Ireland’s naivety in trying to dominate every set-piece.

Ireland’s scrum has functioned well in the Six Nations this year

With Porter injured, Cian Healy started at loosehead that evening and the Leinster man’s aggressive approach was taken advantage of by the English front row, who had Kyle Sinckler drive in from the tighthead side, and Ellis Genge stepping up and pulling the scrum around on their loosehead side.

“There was a lot of chaos on the field that day,” added Fogarty, who joined the Ireland coaching team in 2020.

“Coming on to the field, we were rattled. I guess we were trying to figure out what we needed to do to stem the flow a little bit, but it was an unbelievably frustrating day.

“So, we learned a lot from it. The main thing we learned from it was around how were dealing with the chaos of it, almost, we talk about having clarity on our plan and being on the same page, but at the same time having that calmness to deliver intent.

“Accurate is probably a better word; mentally being accurate, not being derailed and then physically putting ourselves in the positions we need to put ourselves in across the pack.

“We even talked about being able to control out weight on our lift, on that bind phase, being able to really control our weight; the importance of being accurate that can control that chaos a little bit.”

If England are to cause an upset and end Ireland’s bid for back-to-back Grand Slams this weekend, taking apart their scrum and lineout will be key, with 13 of Ireland’s 15 tries in this campaign originating from clean lineout possession.

Ireland have won four games in a row versus England

This fixture has been remarkably one-sided in recent years, with Ireland winning the last four meetings by an average of 15.5 points.

And while Ireland have dominated their opening three games, England have been going through an identity crisis. Opening wins against Italy and Wales papered over some cracks in their performances, but after a meek defeat to Scotland in Round 3, they are being given little chance by the experts of derailing Ireland’s Grand Slam bid.

“They will be highly motivated,” says the Ireland assistant, who is quick to point out that England came within a kick of a ball of reaching the World Cup final in October.

“There are really good coaches in that group and they are going to be figuring things out. All that energy will be with them. We’re expecting a better England, a team that is hurt a bit and highly motivated.

“They potentially are thinking we should be in a final of a World Cup and Ireland were out in the quarter-final stage.

“There’s a lot of power in their side. They won’t be happy with how they’ve gone over the last game or two.”

While many are predicting a scoreline in line with their previous four meetings, a win of any kind will see Ireland set a new record of consecutive Six Nations victories (12), as well as moving them a step closer to a potential Grand Slam for the second year in a row.

If they can go one better and secure a bonus-point win, it’ll even see Farrell’s side crowned tournament champions with a game to spare, but Fogarty insists they aren’t going to be distracted by the potential of silverware in the distance.

Ireland could secure the Six Nations title with a bonus point win

“It’s important to improve, that’s the key thing.

“You get derailed, thinking ‘f**k me, we’re in a great spot, we are in a great spot, lets go over and put ourselves on the field’. They have to improve today, now, they have to improve tomorrow, they have to understand how they improve together in their smaller groups and as a team.

“The wins, all that stuff happens, but the stuff we have real control over is our mindset, how we approach each day. Faz [Andy Farrell] says it: ‘Do we want to improve?’ We want to see that, that hunger to get better, to figure things out together, and that’s what they’re doing.

“Figuring our game out, ours scrum, our maul, our lineout defence, properly figuring it out, and bring their own x-factor, point of difference, to the game. That’s genuinely what consumes our minds. That’s some buzz.

“Winning is brilliant but watching a group improve, you become irrelevant as a coach. There’s a brilliant group of players here.”


Watch England v Ireland in the Under-20 Six Nations on Friday from 7pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app

Watch England v Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday from 4.45pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app and listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1


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