Falcons hooker Matt Thompson adapting to new scrum laws

Newcastle Falcons veteran Matt Thompson and his team-mates are getting to grips with new laws and interpretations

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images Josh Matavesi of Worcester Warriors is tackled by Matt Thompson of Newcatstle Falcons
Josh Matavesi of Worcester Warriors is tackled by Matt Thompson of Newcatstle Falcons

Matt Thompson says he and his fellow Newcastle Falcons forwards are over their teething troubles when it comes to rugby union’s new scrum laws.

The England Saxons cap has a front-row seat for one of the biggest changes to hit the game in years, with hookers having to actually live up to their name and hook the ball.

“To be honest, I have forgotten what the old laws were,” said the 30-year-old, who has made more than 200 appearances in more than a decade at the club.

“We have been training with our front-row coach Micky Ward now for a good few months on these new laws, and it has become second nature. Since I have been playing there have been about four different sets of scrummaging laws coming in, and I couldn’t tell you the first, second or third one. I just block them out of my mind, and this latest lot is a routine we will look to perfect.”

The early rounds of the Premiership have seen the bizarre spectacle of the ball rolling through the tunnel without a foot being laid on it, as scrum-halves are forced to feed it in straight.

Thompson said: “Myself and Scotty Lawson were talking about this the other day and, out of the four hookers in the first-team squad, we are the only ones old enough to have had to hook for the ball before.

“Some of the young kids have never had to do it, and when you look at the other clubs there are a few who are struggling with it.

“You see them popping out of the scrum because they have got to stand up to hook the ball but, like anything, you just adapt. All four of us at the Falcons have got the gist of the new laws, and Micky has been working with us to make sure that is the case. It was perhaps a bit ropey at the start, but you work as a front-row and a front-five to develop.”

Explaining the technical aspects behind a set of laws aimed at making the scrum more of a genuine contest, he said: “For that couple of seconds where your foot is up and you are hooking the ball, you are not a passenger.

“Yes, you don’t have full capability of pushing with having one foot off the floor, but you still have pressure on because your left foot is grounded. The key is how quickly you can strike the ball and get that right foot back on the floor, and how low you can maintain the scrum to avoid popping out.”

Pouring cold water on a return to the days of dextrous hookers stealing possession with a well-timed strike on the opposition feed, he added: “Even with the new laws, you will never get a hook against the head. People aren’t that flexible, and if you do strike against the feed then you have got to stand up.

“It is still more of a contest, though, because the hooker having to hook the ball does make them slightly vulnerable for that couple of seconds.

“This year the defending teams will be getting better and better at pushing when the hooker is vulnerable.

“But also, the attacking teams will get slicker at getting the ball to the No 8’s feet as quickly as possible. It will take a bit of time, but sides will work on it.”

Meanwhile, No 8 Harrison Collins will miss the Falcons’ trip to French club Brive on Saturday after injuring his thumb during last weekend’s 13-12 victory in Bucharest.

Forward colleague FraserMcKenzie has been named in the Amlin Opta team of the week for his display in the Romanian capital, the Scottish lock winning his place via a points-based performance index.

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