THE Waratahs’ 2014 Super Rugby championship was built on forward pack aggression and new forwards coach Simon Cron wants to see that again.
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Back then, names like Jacques Potgieter and Kane Douglas set the physical tone, and Cron wants to see that abrasiveness across his entire pack.
Captain Michael Hooper is often the leader when it comes to that area but Cron said they could not simply rely on one or two personalities for that anymore – a pack that includes Berry’s Will Miller.
“I'm a big believer that a forward pack does have to have a level of aggression, especially around contact zone, ball carry,” Cron said.
“I would like to see that start to shine out in our pack.
“At the end of the day, you've got to (want to) beat them more than they want to beat you and that's – there's a level of aggression around that in the contact zone – you've got to want to happen.
“That'll have to happen from one to eight and if you watch someone like Hoops as a leader – he's always up at the line, he wants to hit everything, he wants to run everything.
“I think we've got that in our forward pack, just got to make it so they're all doing it.”
The Waratahs’ set piece struggled against the Rebels in their final trial, missing three crucial line-outs first up.
Rob Simmons and Tom Staniforth were sluggish at Brookvale, though Cron said Simmons’ fatigue was a major factor in that, the Wallabies lock having had just one hour’s sleep after the birth of his first child, William.
Simmons went off at half-time, with a gash to the head against the Rebels.
“If I'd heard he'd had one hour's sleep, I would've said 'Nah, mate, sorry',” Cron said.
“I would've made that decision for him.
“He fell asleep getting stitches so he was pretty tired.
“They were definitely a little bit off the mark in terms of the speed at which we set our line-outs.
“We were really slow to set, and that just gave them a lot of time to get up on us and we were also really slow to call.
“Our whole job at the forwards is to be faster than the other team.
“We weren't – we will be on Saturday (against the Stormers).”
Cron said the coaches were yet to settle on their first-choice locking combination for round one.
Ned Hanigan remains a contender to start in that second row ahead of Staniforth, making it through the second half at Brookvale, though Cron said he was still an option at six as well.
“I think Ned Hanigan did a very good job when he came on, so there'll be some discussions around final selection of the second row and the makeup of that forward pack and what it gives us against the Stormers,” he said.
“What Ned offers is really good mobile second row and loose forward.
“He can play six and lock - he's also very aggressive at the contact zone.
“He's very quick off the ground, so he's very good in the lineout whether he's jumping at lock or at six.”
Hooker Damien Fitzpatrick remains an injury concern for the Waratahs, though Cron described him as a ‘70-30’ chance of making it on NSW’s South Africa-Argentina tour ahead of round two.
The Waratahs open their Super Rugby season on Saturday, February 24 against the Stormers at Allianz Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT.
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