Explained: Why Cian Healy was allowed to scrum at hooker in Ireland’s triumph over Scotland
Cian Healy and Josh van der Flier stepped up to perform the hooker duties for Ireland in their 22-7 victory over Scotland in the Six Nations.
Ireland had to deal with a hooker crisis in the crunch clash to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive after Dan Sheehan was forced off the pitch in the 18th minute. His replacement Ronan Kelleher then injured his shoulder but was able to make it to the interval but did not last much longer after being forced off in the 48th minute.
Despite Ireland losing two hookers, contested scrums ensued for the remainder of the match, with prop Healy filling the void at hooker.
Planet Rugby explains why Andy Farrell’s side could continue without going to uncontested scrums.
Healy is a designated hooker replacement
With so much emphasis on the safety of the players in the scrum, particularly the front-row, teams must designate which front-rowers can play which positions.
World Rugby law 3.10 states: “Prior to the match, each team must advise the appropriate match official of their front-row players and possible front-row replacements and which position(s) in the front row they can play. Only these players may play in the front-row when the scrum is contested and only in their designated position(s).”
So, in this case, Ireland named Healy as their replacement loosehead prop based on the number on his back. However, he would have been listed as a tighthead prop and a hooker under additional positions.
This is not the first time Ireland have done this, as shown by the official teamsheet for Ireland’s match against the Maori All Blacks last July.
The foresight from the coaching staff meant that Ireland would not be reduced to 14 men because of the hooker crisis.
If Healy had not been listed as a hooker or indeed couldn’t scrummage in the position, Ireland would have had to sacrifice a player and play out the remainder of the match with 14 players.
The graphic below maps out the circumstances and repercussions of being unable to continue with contested scrums.
Credit: World Rugby
Sheehan and Kelleher were forced off the pitch with contact injuries, meaning that if Healy could not play hooker or was not designated as one on the teamsheet, Ireland would go down one player.
What prompted Ireland to get Healy scrummaging at hooker?
Credit must go to the Ireland coaching staff for having the foresight to train the veteran front-rower up as a scrummaging hooker option and list him as one on the teamsheets.
However, this was a reactive measure after the aforementioned law affected one of their Six Nations matches last year.
Italy had to play with 13 men for over an hour. The Azzurri would lose the match 57-6. In that case, Italy hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi sustained an injury in the eighth minute, and his replacement Hame Faiva was sent off ten minutes later for a high tackle.
Italy were required to field three front-rowers from that point on, and Ivan Nemer entered the fray in place of Toa Halafihi. Additionally, they had to go down a further player as Pierre Bruno departed the pitch.
In this case, Nemer nor his fellow front-row replacements were listed as hooker options and uncontested scrums needed to be carried out for the remainder of the match.
Having seen the effects of not having an emergency third hooker option in the squad, Ireland moved to train Healy up in the position – a move that kept their Grand Slam hopes alive.
Why does this law exist?
The reasoning behind these laws is to stop teams that are losing the scrum battle from feigning injuries to force uncontested scrums.
While this does seem unlikely, Warren Gatland admitted that he and his coaching staff considered it during the 2011 Rugby World Cup when Sam Warburton was sent off.
“After it [the red card] happened, we discussed in the box whether, given that we had already lost Adam [Jones], we should fake an injury to one of our other props to go to uncontested scrums. I made the decision that it was not the right thing to do morally,” Gatland said.
“We could easily have done it just 25 minutes or so into the match, but the spirit of rugby and the fact it was a World Cup semi-final meant it was not the right thing to do.”
While Gatland and his staff decided against it, who is to say that all coaches would do the same?
Ireland’s best win of the Championship?
England stand in the way of Ireland completing their third Six Nations Grand Slam.
If Ireland do manage to knock over Steve Borthwick’s charges and claim the title, the win over Scotland should be viewed as their biggest scalp of the tournament.
The heavyweight clash in round two, where Ireland out-boxed France 32-19, was a testament to their world-class quality. However, the win over Scotland shows the meticulous planning from the coaches and players for every eventuality.
The margins in Test rugby are minute, realising that Ireland controlled the controllables, upskilling Healy and van der Flier enough to see them over the line against Scotland.
READ MORE: Six Nations Team of the Week: France lead the way as top two teams in the world dominate selection
The article Explained: Why Cian Healy was allowed to scrum at hooker in Ireland’s triumph over Scotland appeared first on Planetrugby.com.