The scrum was a big topic of discussion at Wednesday’s press conference for the USA national rugby team.
The Eagles had been shoved off the park, not to put too fine a point on it, against Ireland, and while Russia isn’t expected to be as difficult as Ireland, they are expected to cause some troubles for the scrum-challenged USA team.
Forwards coach Dave Hodges saw what everyone else saw, and has worked to do something about it.
“I think there certainly are some fixes that we’ve been putting into place the last two days,” Hodges said. “We’re certainly going to be improved in that area.”
“As a back row we have to keep on our props and be part of that second row,” added captain Todd Clever, who will also be required to pop off that scrum quickly to help No. 8 Nic Johnson should he need it. “We need to get the ball first,” he added. “Before we do other jobs.”
The Eagles didn’t change their second row and back row from the Ireland game, as those five players performed extremely well. But in the front row, Chris Biller comes in for Phil Thiel at hooker and Mate Moeakiola comes in for Shawn Pittman at tighthead prop. Neither of those changes was about form, said Hodges.
“The changes have sort of been on the cards,” said Hodges. “We are very confident in both our hookers. They both can throw very well, and have different strengths and weaknesses, and we don’t feel we lose from one to the other. Mate is an old head in terms of scrummaging. We think this is a great time to come into that front row.”
So the scrum remains important. Clever said the team has to get more of the initiative in the engagements. Hodges says he wants to see intensity. Fans? Well they want to see some go-forward. If they get that, Russia could be in trouble.