Joe Marler ready to unleash England's scrum power against Wales

Joe Marler ready to unleash England’s scrum power against Wales as prop hails ‘different mentality’ introduced by new forwards coach Matt Proudfoot

  • Matt Proudfoot was in charge of South Africa forwards for World Cup final win 
  • Springboks took England apart at the scrum and now he works with them  
  • Joe Marler has praised Proudfoot and explained the changes he’s introduced 
  • Back-row forwards stay engaged for longer and maintain the pressure  

England are ready to unleash their scrum as an attacking weapon against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, after using their set-piece ordeal in the World Cup final as a catalyst for change.

Eddie Jones’s side were beaten 32-12 by South Africa in Yokohama last November, with the Springbok pack laying a platform for the triumph. Time and again they pushed back the England forwards in the scrum, a mis-match that was key to their success.

Jones responded by hiring Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, who has asked all eight men involved to commit fully to making the scrum an offensive asset.

Joe Marler (right) has been impressed by the changes Matt Proudfoot has made to the scrum

‘Matt’s been brilliant,’ said Joe Marler, who is expected to be named as the starting loosehead prop against Wales. ‘I like the way he works; he places a huge amount of pride and respect on the set piece, particularly the scrum.’

Steve Borthwick, England’s forwards coach, has ‘turned us into a world-class outfit in the lineout’, according to Marler.

‘But Matt has come in and added a different mentality to the scrum, given us a little bit more licence to attack there, which is always nice for a prop to hear.’

Marler explained what Proudfoot had changed about England’s scrum: ‘The back five stay on us, the front-rowers, longer, particularly on defensive scrums, as opposed to what most back-rowers do when they “periscope” — which you can’t blame them for because they’ve got another job to do.

Proudfoot has put added emphasis on the scrum and wants the players to take pride in it

‘But they also have to back themselves that if they stay on the scrum and we get a result there, or make an impression there, then you will have an easier job getting off to make a tackle because it’ll be that much further behind the gainline.

‘It’s trying to get the back-rowers to buy into loving scrummaging as much as we do.’

There have been some encouraging results so far. In the 24-12 win over Ireland at Twickenham, the home pack cranked up the pressure and put their rivals in reverse. Maro Itoje provides considerable power from the second row and he has recognised the need for a collective effort from all England’s forwards.

The Saracens lock said: ‘Matt has come in and placed a greater importance on the scrum, both sides of the ball, when we have it and when the opposition puts in. It is the responsibility of not just the front row, but everyone in the pack.

‘When the scrum is getting marched forward, the front row get massive pats on the back, but as a second row I get just as much enjoyment from winning a scrum penalty as I do a maul penalty.

Proudfoot likes all of the eight players to engage for longer to keep the pressure on

‘They are both massive parts of the game and I think that is what Matt has come in and tried to emphasise.’

Itoje recoiled at the memory of the scrum punishment dished out by the Springboks four months ago. ‘I’ve experienced being on the other side of a team when they have a dominant scrum and it is not nice. We like to use our scrum as a weapon and when you can’t use your scrum as a weapon it is almost seen as a weakness — not a place you want to be in,’ he said.

‘When you are on the receiving end of a pack that is coming at you, marching over you at the scrum, marching you backwards, it is not nice.’

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