At his peak, Benn Robinson was acknowledged as one of the premier loosehead props in world rugby. While not the biggest in terms of stature, the man they dubbed ‘Cat’ used his 183cm, 112-kilo frame to great effect across 72 Tests for the Wallabies and 148 Super Rugby matches for the NSW Waratahs.
But we wanted to know what it feels like when the preparation on the scrum machine, live scrummaging and in the gym all come together and culminate in the perfect scrum…
The perfect scrum
“Right from the engagement you feel a sense of thrill right through your body,” Robinson said. “There’s nothing more motivating than hearing the forced exertion from your opponent and, if you’re lucky, even a grunt or squeal.”
Robinson identifies a scrum in the Wallabies’ 21-6 win over the Springboks in Brisbane in 2009 as the closest he’s come to set piece perfection. During the match, the Australian forward pack responded to previous criticism of its scrum in the most resounding manner. “We were packing down against a quality Springbok pack, led by John Smit as captain, and by the end of the scrum he ended up with his legs facing the wrong way. It became a turning point in the game. When you have a side defeated in an area that they perceived as a strength, like set piece, everyone feels it and lifts from it.”
Robinson adds that for a forward, there are few feelings better than executing on this scale. “It’s a combination of the work that you’ve done on the machine or as a team. To achieve and see that come together – with seven of your closest mates – is a great feeling.”
How to get to that point…
Behind the scenes, there’s much hard work required on the road to achieving scrum perfection. Over his 15-year elite level career, Robinson estimates he’s packed down in thousands of practice scrums and locked horns with the Enforcer scrum machine with almost daily regularity.
Robinson says the Enforcer scrum machines can be utilised to hone and up-skill on a multitude of scrummaging techniques. “The machines can be used for a full eight-man scrum, through to six-man, five, three, two or individual work. It’s good for working on basic angles, processes on engagement, body shape post engagement – there are thousands of things you can use it to work on.”
Forwards love it; backs – forget it!
Robinson was quick to refute any speculation that a back could ever understand or appreciate what it felt like to achieve such a feat on a rugby field. “Look, a few backs have tried and they’ve invariably come out sore and sorry, often with broken rib cartilage; they’re welcome to try again though,” he said. “The thing I love about scrums is that they’re the one opportunity in a game when you come together – literally – with seven of your mates to physically give everything you can in unity to achieve.”
Words of wisdom
And the advice that Robinson bestows in order to achieve this? “You’ve got to enjoy it,” he said. “You’ve got to love the challenge and love the aggression with it. Ultimately it’s about skill and a bit of mongrel. You’ve got to believe that you’re better than the bloke opposite you, and you’ve got to be willing to do the work in the lead-up. It’s about putting your head in dark places, packing against the machine time and time again to ensure that you’re ready for that opportunity.”