Analysis: Leinster can defy the odds if they take advantage of Toulon's weak scrum 6 years ago

Analysis: Leinster can defy the odds if they take advantage of Toulon's weak scrum

Toulon-Wasps was scrum-heavy. Incredibly scrum-heavy.

There were 18 set downs in total (excluding resets), with a whopping 15 of them coming in the opening 51 minutes. That worked out at around a scrum every three and a half minutes, a phenomenal physical effort from the forwards.

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But the busy afternoon of scrummaging did teach us something; Toulon, and in particular loose-head Alexandre Menini, are there for the taking.

Menini was pinged four times at the scrum by George Clancy, and it could even have been more.

Toulon's scrum improved late on after the introduction of Xanier Chiocci for Menini, and also from Wasps' reluctance to bring off Matt Mullan sooner than they did.

Despite that though, Mullan was impressive, holding his own against Carl Hayman while Loenzo Cittadini caused havoc on the other side.

After a quick and uneventful in and out on the opening scrum, Wasps set the tone 30 seconds later, as Menini collapsed inwards under pressure from the outstanding Cittadini. Below, we can see how Menini pops out his hips to angle in, and drive across the tight-head. Eventually the scrum collapses and George Clancy gives Wasps the penalty.

2 - collapseIt was a similar story at the next scrum, as Menini was again penalised, this time for driving both in and up. His initial body position is quite poor. His head drops considerably lower than his hips, taking away so much power from his drive.

Contrast that with Cittadini, whose head and hips are level with each other, meaning he can drive parallel to the ground.

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3 - Menini poorBecause Menini's positioning is so poor to begin with, he comes under pressure from Cittadini almost instantly. Refusing to go back, he tries to drive across the chest of his opponent, and force the scrum to move sideways, rather than forward.

3 - Menini angleHe then angles up through Cittadini to lift him and force him to pop up, in the hope that he could fool Clancy. However, the referee doesn't take the bait, and spots the illegal drive. Compare the angle of Menini to that of his tight-head Hayman, while it's also worth noting how far Steffon Armitage has shifted up along the scrum, something he'd be penalised for later on.

3 - Menini upMenini was clearly struggling, and on the very next scrum drove upwards again, luckily avoiding another penalty.

Here we can see the initial body position of the loose-head; perfectly straight, and lined up square to his opponent.

4 - Menini initialBut watch how dramatically it changes once the ball is fed. Instantly, Cittadini begins to drive at him, and because he is too proud to go backwards, Menini begins standing up.

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4 - Menini upHowever, while Clancy doesn't penalise him this time, his tactic does backfire, as Toulon lose the ball on their own put in, and Wasps steal possession.

Meinini was beginning to improve in the scrum, but after 24 minutes, Toulon's indiscipline at the setpiece was penalised yet again, after Steffon Armitage inexplicably broke from the scrum before the ball was out, resulting in an easy three points for Wasps.

Toulon's nudge on this scrum was all down to poor positioning from Lorenzo Cittadini, who was driving with his head considerably higher than his hips, taking away all his power. In contrast, Menini's body position this time was perfect. Low, pelvis out, and driving parallel to the floor, maximising his power.

6 - Menini betterHowever despite being on top, Toulon found themselves conceding a penalty due to Armitage's impatience.

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With scrum-half Joe Simpson attempting to take the ball out of the scrum, Armitage broke off his flank way before the ball was touched, and left Clancy with one of the easiest decisions he'll ever make in his career.

6 - ArmitageAfter a poor start, it looked like Menini was getting to grips with the scrum, and he had Cittadini scrambling further next time around.

Watch again how he is driving perfectly straight compared to his first few scrums, and note how Cittadini has locked out his body in one straight line from his toes to his head, usually a sign that a prop is getting desperate.

7 - Menini

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The Wasps pack were hanging on for the half-time whistle, and reestablished their dominance after a badly needed breather.

They won another scrum penalty from Toulon within seconds of the game restarting, and while Menini was part of the problem, it really was a group effort.

Once again, Cittadini got a strong drive on Menini, but this time, the Toulon second and backrows decided to drive to their right, to wheel the scrum around and hopefully con Clancy.

9 - whipEventually, they whip they scrum so far, that the two packs are no longer in contact. The Wasps pack are still driving forward, while the Toulon pack are actually behind them. Again, they've given Clancy no option, and the penalty is awarded to Wasps.

9 - breakMenini could have conceded another penalty soon after, as he drove upwards on Cittadini yet again, as seen below. However, only the speed at which Toulon got the ball in and out prevented that from happening.

10 - MeniniThis was one of six scrums in the space of just nine minutes after the restart (not including reset scrums), and in the heat of the south of France, that amount of physical work inevitably took its toll.

Toulon were pinged for an early shove, and when Wasps opted for a scrum of their own, they gave away an identical free-kick themselves.

Toulon then gave away a fourth scrum penalty, and the third of which you can directly attribute to Menini.

It's impossible to see what exactly happened here, but considering Clancy was pretty consistent with his decisions, we're inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

After 15 scrums in the opening 50 minutes, Cittadini's day was done. Srangely, there were just three more scrums in the final half an hour, but Toulon found their rhythm, in particular this one 15 minutes from time, when they danced through the tiring Wasps pack.

Matt Mullan had kept Carl Hayman quiet on his side of the scrum for most of the day, but he was clearly out on his feat after a mammoth effort.

It also helped that Xavier Chiocci had been brought on minutes earlier to shore things up at loose-head, and once that ship was steadied, Hayman was able to do take Mullan apart.

They finished strongly, but overall, Toulon's scrum was massively disappointing. While Wasps are a strong scrummaging side, Leinster handled themselves much better in each of their meetings this season, and Mike Ross in particular needs to target Alexandre Menini, if he starts.

Leinster's scrum has only improved since then, with Cian Healy back fit and Mike Ross back in form. Leinster can win on Sunday, and if they do, expect the scrum to have played its part.