The All Blacks front row is in trouble nine months out from the World Cup, according to former Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman.
"The All Blacks are actually in a bit of trouble scrum-wise. They’ve suffered from the amount of props that have gone to France in particular," Jackman told Tuesday’s OTB AM.
While there are a number of young front-rowers coming through the ranks in New Zealand rugby, it has become a real challenge trying to prepare these youngsters for international rugby.
“Young All Blacks are starting to leave earlier than before. Historically they waited until the World Cup cycle was over, but now they realise there’s more money to be got leaving a year and a half before the World Cup.”
As the scrum is used as a weapon more often in the Northern Hemisphere than it is down south, Jackman believes that front rowers plying their trade in Super Rugby aren’t being developed as well as they are in the Champions Cup.
"Even if young props might have forty, fifty Super Rugby games, unless they play forty, fifty internationals, they’re not going to be the same level as our guys."
"I think our starting front row could go into any world XV. Our depth is as strong as any country in the world."
Super Rugby is a very different animal in terms of front-row development at set-pieces compared to Champions Cup...
Ireland, meanwhile have arguably the best strength in depth that they have ever had in the front row. “We were so reliant on people like John Hayes for years, but now there’s real strength in depth in all positions."
Jackman had plenty of words of praise for Ireland’s current set up in the front row saying; "Our starting front row would go into any starting 15 and our depth is as strong as any country in the world."
Other nations have impressive front row players at their disposal, but Jackman points at the provinces’ collective mindset as being of huge benefit to the cohesiveness of the national side.
"France will have very good individuals, but because there’s no alignment between the Top 14 clubs’ coaching styles and the national side, when they go into a six nations squad with France, it’s all a bit of a muddle."
Words: Eoin Harte