We fear nobody in the scrum after destroying Saints – Harden
BULLISH scrummagers Gloucester must build a fearsome coal-face reputation and exploit their potent set-piece weapon, believes Rupert Harden.
Tighthead prop Harden hailed the Cherry and Whites' titanic scrum effort in demolishing the much-vaunted Northampton Saints set-piece in Saturday's 24-19 Premiership defeat.
The 27-year-old helped the Kingsholm men batter Northampton into scrum submission, but laid the plaudits at the feet of Gloucester's six-strong front-row stocks.
A back spasm forced former Newcastle Falcons Academy and Tynedale prop Harden out of action prematurely in the second half.
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But by then Gloucester had broken Saints' resolve – and replacements Shaun Knight, Huia Edmonds and Dan Murphy were able to bury the celebrated Saints scrum.
Nigel Davies' men bullied Northampton into conceding a penalty try, with old Gloucester boy Paul Doran-Jones sin-binned for his troubles.
Newcastle University graduate Harden believes Gloucester have proved themselves capable of dispatching the best scrums in the Premiership – and challenged his side to keep doing just that.
He explained: "Hopefully this sends a message that we can be a powerful scrum, right up there with the very best.
"Scrummaging is all about reputation, and with what we did out there at the weekend, hopefully people will sit up and take notice.
"Gloucester have once again got a scrum worthy of some note, and we can use it as a real weapon.
"Now the challenge is to push that forward, and not be satisfied with what we've done – we're only one game in and we didn't win that game.
"If you can impose your will on the opposition pack then the rewards will come, and we've got to keep going and improving.
"We won a penalty at the last scrum before half-time, that was us on top after a nice little slog – and then I don't think we conceded a scrum penalty for the rest of the game.
"Not to get much of a second half was disappointing, but my back went into spasm so that was that.
"And to be fair, after that, the boys who came on took them to the cleaners.
"We knew it was going to be a fight, and as an eight we stayed right in it, and hopefully the second rows and back-rowers are as pleased with that as we were.
"The boys who came off the bench went brilliantly, the whole front-row that came on did a great job, and so selection will be tough for the coaches this week, no doubt."
Matson-born Gloucester Academy graduate Knight is fast establishing a fearsome reputation.
And Harden expects a real selection tussle with the 22-year-old this term.
Aware he will not always command the starting shirt, Harden said Saturday's front-row cavalry call from the replacements bench underlines the importance of having two complete top-class front-row units in every match squad.
He continued: "It's a six-man job in the front-row, so whether you start or you're on the bench, you're going to have a pivotal role to play.
"Shaun came on for me and did very well.
"There are times when it will be the other way around, no doubt, and hopefully I can do the same when that happens.
"It's a tag-team that lasts all year.
"It's only the first step on a long ladder, but if we can keep performing like that against top-ranked scrums, hopefully we can be the Harlequins of this year in the scrummage.
"Quins were perceived as having a weak scrum at the start of last year, and by the end they were viewed as the dominant force in the Premiership, and they won the whole competition.
"And there's no reason why we can't do something similar scrummage-wise."