Saturday 16 December 2017

Simon Easterby: Ireland's scrum will continue to be 'a real weapon'

Simon Easterby
Simon Easterby

Forwards coach Simon Easterby has predicted the perfect Irish set-piece will have to be a cornerstone against Italy on Sunday.

Ireland and South Africa are the only two nations at the World Cup which still hold a 100% return from their scrum and maul set-ups.

"Yeah, I think the scrum in particular has been a real weapon and will continue to be," said Easterby.

The ground work has been put firmly in place by scrum coach Greg Feek and the more recent addition of Easterby to the coaching ticket.

"I suppose it's not by chance and a lot of work goes into both areas," he continued.

It doesn't hurt that Feek spent more than four seasons at Leinster where he worked with Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Nathan White, for one year, Tadhg Furlong, Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss, not to mention Martin Moore and Michael Bent.

This New Zealander's role has been publicly under-valued in the development of the core of Irish front rows.

"Myself and Feeky get plenty of time to be able to put both those things into place and make sure that's our foundation.

"I suppose our forward pack gets our set-piece right. Then, hopefully, other things will build around that."

Now, this 100% statistic could be deemed more than a trifle misleading given the level of competition Ireland have come up against.

Neither Canada or Romania present the most sophisticated defensive lineout operations, although the latter can be a handful in the scrum.

These basic launch-pads of forward play will come under savage scrutiny by the Italians, especially if their captain Sergio Parisse comes through his two fitness tests on recovery from a calf haematoma this week.

"It's great that that is the case, but I think we'll come under a huge amount more pressure in the next couple of games, starting with Italy on the weekend, especially with the type of front row they have at their disposal, and guys off the bench and their forward pack.

"As we spoke about the lineout defence is an area that will be a real strength for them."

For all of that, Ireland can only deal with the men in front of them. Italy are not on form. They could have been beaten by Canada.

"But, we've probably got a couple of bigger tests to come in the set-piece.

"We don't take anything for granted in terms of what we've done to date. We can park that."

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