Gloucester Rugby: We can't be naive in the scrum, says Wood
NAIVE Gloucester must be ready for all eventualities at the scrum tomorrow, believes frustrated Nick Wood.
The Kingsholm loosehead is all in favour of the scrummage's new engagement calling sequence.
But the 30-year-old will only endorse the 'crouch, bind, set' regime if referees grasp the 'ultimate power' that's now in their hands.
Accomplished scrummager Wood admits Gloucester were 'too honest' at the set-piece in their 22-16 opening Premiership defeat to Sale Sharks last weekend.
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Wood has challenged the Cherry and Whites to be fully prepared to scrum for the old-style full-power hit engagement if necessary against Saracens at Allianz Park tomorrow (kick-off 2pm).
The Cirencester-raised front-rower hopes 'well-respected' referee Wayne Barnes will police the new laws in Hendon.
He believes officials can end the majority of scrum nonsense simply by delaying the scrum-half's put-in for however long is necessary for the packed-down set-piece to get square and get on with it.
"I think we were a little naive, and perhaps too honest," explained the 231-game Kingsholm stalwart.
"I think we went about it the right way in terms of coaching strategy and approaching the game.
"It's a new set of laws, and we worked hard to gain as much information on the changes as we could.
"I think Andrew Stanley and Tony Windo went about it spot-on.
"On Saturday it was almost as it was last year, except with a half-bind before engaging, and they couldn't have predicted that.
"It's not been a case of back to the drawing board: it's a slight change in mentality in how we attack.
"Yes we came off second-best, but that was down to naivety and not adapting to the referee's interpretation.
"We've worked on that and a gameplan for Sunday.
"But if things become a lot more static, then that's something we've worked on all pre-season.
"This is new for everyone, so you have to go in prepared for both the old-style hit, and also the new rules.
"We worked all pre-season on the hit and squeeze, but now we've got to look at being a bit more dynamic too."
Wood was sin-binned by referee Andrew Small in Gloucester's Sale defeat last week.
The England Under-21s and Saxons cap will not take further issue with the yellow card – but he admitted he spoke to Small after the Sale clash, and raised his hopes for set-piece refereeing this season.
Backing the scrum changes to pay long-term dividends if the referees assert total authority, Wood continued: "Last week it was a team that didn't particularly want to make the scrum a contest, and they ended up getting the better of us.
"We've worked very closely with a few refs and a couple of guys overseeing it, as to how the new calls would be policed.
"But you come to the first game and that's not happened.
"In theory, the calling system should work. The referee has the power to delay the put-in.
"The whole issue before was the hit became so important: if you won the hit, the ball came in when you're going forward, and it's job done.
"By delaying the put-in, there may still be a hit and there may still be movement – but eventually the ref having absolute control over the ball, things will settle down.
"The players will then start to realise the hit isn't the be-all and end-all, and it's in everyone's interests to keep it up and try to work angles post the engage.
"I spoke to the referee after the Sale game, he's a good referee and a nice guy; someone you can talk to.
"I said 'I'm not going to question the yellow card, I'm just going to say that personally you have all the control in that calling sequence'.
"The ultimate power is delaying the put-in.
"In the old days you would see the scrum-halves pushing the packs around until it was steady.
"It's never going to come to that, but the referee has the power to take a few seconds between the props binding and calling set, then he can wait again before saying 'yes nine'.
"The longer you take on that, the less time you will spend on re-sets, so the dividends will pay off.
"When you're stuck in that poised set-up waiting, that does sap the strength, but that might make people get their act together.
"Players won't want to expend that much energy in effectively a dead situation, waiting for the contest."