THE Rugby Development department at Scottish Rugby hopes that it has taken the first step towards tackling the potentially existential threat posed by plummeting front-row player numbers with the launch of its new ‘Scrum School’ initiative earlier today [Wednesday].
Through a series of practical workshops supported by online resources, the programme aims to provide support to coaches and players with the ultimate goal of creating stronger, more confident and skilled front-row players.
‘Scrum school’ has been developed to support both youth and senior players in the male and female game, irrespective of their rugby experience.
“Prop and hooker are specialist positions in that you need to be trained in order to play there,” said Gav Scott, Murrayfield’s Director of Rugby Development, who is himself a former hooker playing professionally with Glasgow Warriors and reaching Scotland A level.
“You could argue that for the rest of the team but there are specific requirements for the front-row, and we know in the community game that there has increasingly been issues with fulfilling fixtures because of a lack of front-row players, so it is an issue which we have wanted to address for a few years and it is great that we are doing that now.
“We also know that as you get into performance pathways and so on, there aren’t that many front-row players that end up getting into pro teams further up the chain.
“So, it is a dual thing, where we need more people to want to play the game at community level, and we know that will feed upwards to our performance game.
“We feel more people should be able to play it because it is not just for great big body shapes, but also for little people like myself,” he added. “And getting more people comfortable coaching it is an important part of getting more people to want to play there.”
The programme will be delivered by over 50 Scottish Rugby employees and club coaches who have undertaken Scrum School Coach Educator training.
A digital campaign will also be delivered to educate and inform players on the scrum, dispel common myths and misconceptions around playing in the front-row, and share real-life testimonials from front-row players across all levels of the game about their experiences.
“It is about breaking down barriers for players and coaches, which we know are there,” said Sinclair Patience, a Scottish Rugby Game Development Manager who is leading the ‘Scrum School’ programme. “Some coaches are really quite intimidated by the thought of coaching the scrum, so what we’ve done is break it down to make it simple for coaches to pick up and say to themselves: ‘I can deliver a bear-crawl position exercise, that’s not that difficult’. Then we can build it up from there, adding some resistance and so on.
“As a matter of fact, a lot of the stuff we are going to be doing is very similar to the stuff they are doing in the professional game. It is just about developing it step-by-step, and making sure everyone understands what we are trying to achieve because that’s where the confidence comes from.
Patience was also keen to address the out of date conception of props being responsible for trundling from one set-piece to the next without really taking part in the rest of the game.
“You look at guys like Zander Fagerson, Murphy Walker and Rory Sutherland, they are able to do everything,” he said. “Our philosophy as a Rugby Development department is that we are developing rugby players and the scrum is just a small part of that. It is about making coaches and players realise that.
“Whether players are starting the sport from scratch, transitioning from a different position or developing their existing front-row skills, ‘Scrum School’ will provide a step-by-step approach to enhancing player’s abilities, and allow more players to safely experience playing in the most enjoyable positions in the game.”
“With this programme, we’ll have practical workshops with each of the five regions in Scottish Rugby hosting a minimum of five sessions each between the end of January through to May, we’ll also have an online resource which supports those workshops, and then through the summer months we are going to have regional scrum-skills camps for players and coaches, which are really focussed and targeted on helping those players who have considered the front-row but are a bit apprehensive. We can provide the opportunity to come into a regional hub to work purely on some technical scrummaging, which will hopefully have a big impact by the time we kick off next season in terms of recruiting new players capable of playing in the front-row.”
Shabaz Khan, who plays in the front-row for Marr RFC and coaches at Kilmarnock RFC, was one of 50 odd coaches to complete the educator course prior to the programme launch. Shabaz said: “I’m really looking forward to Scrum School getting underway. As a current player I’ve noticed more and more games being unplayable due to front-row shortages. I’m excited to help pass on the passion I have for scrummaging to the next generation of coaches and front row players.
“I see myself as part of the system to promote front-row players coming through the community game, whether that be through working with the players directly or aiding coaches with the experience and knowledge needed to identify and develop those players.
“The upcoming regional workshops are going to be a great opportunity for coaches to better understand how to coach all players in the scrum, and there will be something for everyone; whether you’re coaching beginner, intermediate or advanced front-row players.”
- Coaches are now invited to sign up to the first round of Scrum School courses. More information can be found HERE.
- Dates and sign-up information for player Scrum School summer camps will be announced later in the year.