Repeat: Off The Ball

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Repeat: Off The Ball


Tadhg Furlong, Scrums, Mathieu Raynal and Eddie Jones - What actually happened?

Tadhg Furlong looked like he got manhandled against England on Saturday, but the story is more complicated than that.

Eddie Jones was not happy with Mathieu Raynal after England's loss to Ireland, but neither were Ireland fans.

Mathieu Raynal sent Charlie Ewels off after just 82 seconds. It was the right decision.

Ewels collided with James Ryan, concussing the Ireland second row. Ryan didn't return to the game. Ewels didn't do anything malicious but his tackle technique was reckless. He was stood tall when he engaged Ryan, which is what allowed his head to clash with his opponent's head.

That was a straight-forward call for the referee. But from there the game became chaos.

Raynal was incredibly inconsistent and left both leadership groups frustrated. Peter O'Mahony, Jonathan Sexton and Tadhg Furlong all expressed their frustrations to Raynal at different times. A glaring forward pass early in the game went uncalled that gave England a foothold in the game and Maro Itoje somehow avoided a yellow card when he pulled Jamison Gibson-Park into a ruck at the try line.

But for all the question marks in open field and at the breakdown, the scrum became the main focus after the game.

Eddie Jones' side dominated the set piece. Somehow they did that after losing two of their starting forwards in the first half-Charlie Ewels and Tom Curry-while playing a winger on the flank. But despite getting penalty after penalty and winning that matchup, Jones was rightfully frustrated with Raynal.

"I'm a bit disappointed the referee didn't allow us to scrum fully," Jones said.

"That would be my only complaint. We weren't allowed to play advantage away from the scrum. We got four penalties and there was no sign of a yellow card. You know we want to have a powerful scrum and if World Rugby want to have the scrum in the game, they've got to allow strong scrums to dominate.

"We're disappointed we didn't get more out of that."

Jones is never one to shy away from voicing his opinion. He is right in his criticisms of the referee. In the referee's eyes, England were dominating Ireland at the scrum. He gave them penalty after penalty, but he never allowed them to break off the back with advantage nor did he ever threaten to card an Irish player.

It made no sense.

But that assumes Mathieu Raynal was right with his reading of the scrum.

Former Ireland international Mike Ross and widely respected Welsh referee Nigel Owens believe England and Ireland played a stalemate at the scrum. The wheeling motion that earned England at least two penalties was not actually a result of English dominance. It was illegal technique from Ellis Genge.

You can't blame Genge. In the front row, you push the limts as much as you can until the referee stops you. That's the only way you can get the better of a prop such as Tadhg Furlong.

Instead of driving straight against Furlong when the scrum starts, Genge immediately angles his body in towards the hooker. This forces Furlong to turn and prevents him from generating the power he typically would to solidify his side of the scrum. During the game, Furlong asked Raynal to give the scrum a chance to set before letting the ball in.

He asked that of the referee because that would make it obvious when Genge bore inside instead of driving straight. It would force Genge to scrummage legally. Since Raynal allowed England to drive immediately upon engaging, Genge could angle inside immediately.

Since Furlong is the tighthead prop and Genge is the loosehead prop, Furlong had no chance to stop him.

Ireland can't control the officials. They can influence them and they attempted to do so yesterday. But similar to the decision to kick to the posts in France, the game against England suggested this team still needs to develop. Ireland need to be better decision makers and show greater resilience. They won that game because they had the man advantage.

The performance, as Brent Pope noted at the final whistle, was not good. England showed the fight and determination of champions. Ireland are still looking for that identity despite being in position to win a Triple Crown and Championship next weekend.

All positivity in English rugby surrounds Marcus Smith


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Eddie Jones Ellis Genge Mathieu Raynal Tadhg Furlong