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March 08, 2022 6 min read

September 01, 2020

Craig Wilson was born in England and is currently the men's and women's Head Coach at Yale University. Wilson was internationally capped for the Hong Kong National Team and has represented professional academies at Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints. He has played in both the Scottish and Hong Kong premiership and coached the India National Team at both XV’s and sevens.

Jason has also worked as the forwards for the Canterbury provincial team for five years, initially as a Scrum Coach, and then as an Assistant Coach in 2015 and 2016. He also has national experience as the Scrum Coach for the Black Ferns in 2014, and New Zealand Under 20 team for three seasons. Ryan set up the Front Row Club in 2013, a coaching program focused on the safe development of props and hookers.

Rugby Wisdom Podcast

Jason Ryan

Craig Wilson:Welcome to the Rugby Wisdom show. I’m your host, Craig Wilson. This is the podcast that brings you wisdom from rugby’s greatest minds, and this show is brought to you by World Rugby Shop. This is your destination for exclusive rugby gear, equipment, and team apparel. Visit the On this show, I’m joined by Jason Ryan. Jason’s the scrum coach for the world’s leading club rugby team, the Crusaders.

Jas, welcome to the podcast.

Jason Ryan: Thanks, Craig. Great to be on.

Craig Wilson: Thank you so much for joining me on the show. The importance of an effective scrum goes without saying., and I would love for you to get technical and to share what you feel are the key components of building a dominant scrum.

Jason Ryan: Yeah. I think it’s a very good question and something that I get asked very often, and it’s a number of things, really. I sometimes use the analogy of a rowing eight. I’m sure you’re familiar with rowing, and the rowers get their power from the water, and the pedal. In scrummaging, we get our power from the ground, through our feet. And the first thing that I always, that I think any coaches need to understand is understand what your players’ ability and strength is that you’ve got in front of you, and how they can understand their body the most to generate the most power. That’s extremely important, and when you do that and you get all eight guys technically on the same page, generating the most amount of power, with 16 feet on the ground, you can do anything you like. And reward dominance, whether or not that’s scrummaging for a penalty, or whether or not that’s just getting fast, quick channel one ball for the backs to play.

So, we do a lot of work over here, I do a lot of work with the boys in building their bodies to be good scrummagers. But also understand that they’ve got to be able to run, catch, pass, and play everything at speed, which we like to do as well with the Crusaders. So, we do a lot of work with wrestling. I find that it’s a huge point of difference for us. Guys get to understand awkward positions and get themselves out of it technically, and I think if I give you an analogy, I sometimes talk about if you can imagine, if listeners can imagine right now that they’re standing in a squat rack and they’ve got 200 kilos on the bar, and they pick the bar up and they start their movements, their squats, and everything’s in a straight line. All your parts, spine’s straight, you got even feet, shoulder width apart, and then all of a sudden 120 kilos falls off one end. Your reaction time into strong has got to be extremely fast, and that’s why we do a lot of work with our boys, especially from a young age in wrestling. One-on-one wrestling. I’m a huge fan of it and it’s been a big part of some of our young front rowers’ development moving forward.

Craig Wilson: Oh, that’s brilliant. I love how you brought that to life with the squat rack, and can I just ask a follow-up question? Where does the wrestling, how do you transfer that then into say a scrummage in movement? How do you marry those two up?

Jason Ryan: Well, I think when you’re wrestling and you’re on the ground, you gotta find little seams. We often do it with our eyes shut, because scrummaging, it’s close contact stuff. And I think that that transfer of being uncomfortable, getting yourself out of positions is so relevant to scrummaging. Like put it this way, in the last three or four years, I would use a scrum machine at training once a week, probably twice. A scrum machine is like a boxing bag that doesn’t hit you back, whereas the live one-on-one stuff where you’re working with your partner, whether or not it’s on the iPads, having a look at your body position, how am I transferring the most power, what’s my neck doing, what’s my body chain doing in a one-on-one situation through wrestling, and then technically one-on-one scrummaging, that’s the point of difference and that’s what we call the gold standard learning for our scrummaging.

Craig Wilson: No, that’s really fascinating. It’s brilliant how you use the iPad or the iPhone, so you can now get that instant feedback. And are you finding with the younger players that they’re very receptive to the instant feedback? Or do they prefer to go through feeling? Or is it just completely different related to the individual?

Jason Ryan: Well, I think the way that social media is now, our footage and phones, like everyone’s got one on them at all times, so you might as well use it. Like I, if I’ve got two, for example, two front rowers, or two locks, or a lock and a loose forward, or a lock and a prop working together, I’ll just video it and I’ll just stand there and facilitate it and say, “All right now, boys, what are you seeing?” I think in coaching these days, coaches, we all talk too much. The players actually give you the information if you let them. And that’s not so much… If I’ve got an iPad and I give them all the answers and the picture, they haven’t actually learned. Whereas if I keep asking them a question and showing them… Now, a little bit of silence when they’re probably not that sure comes out, and then they see the pictures, and they can execute, and they get an understanding. Whereas if you walk off the grass and then you review your training the next day, the learning’s gone.

So, we do a lot of stuff where we’ll have one-on-one with the iPads, have a look at yourself, have a look at your technique, have a look at your setup, how can it be better? And then go and do it again. And likewise, when we build it up, we will have five on five, or three on three, five on five, and then eight on eight. How are we generating the most power? What are the pictures that you’re seeing? So, it’s a big one for us, and a lot of coaches these days, I’ve often heard them say, “Oh, we haven’t got time.” Well, usually they haven’t got time because they’re actually talking too much themselves. Just let the players see the pictures and you’ll soon realize that it’s actually… If something’s important, you’ll make time. If it’s not, you’ll make an excuse. And that’s why I’m a big fan of the footage. Just show the boys the picture there. And they love it.

Craig Wilson: Look, Jas. Thank you so much for sharing that wisdom. It’s great to have someone of your caliber on the show and just how simple you actually make it and break it down, whether at the elite level, and we can all use it down at the grassroots level, as well. So, thank you so much for your time and all the best.

Jason Ryan: No worries. Cheers.

Craig Wilson: Thank you for tuning into the show, brought to you by the World Rugby Shop. Don’t forget to subscribe and review and join me next week for another edition of the Rugby Wisdom Podcast.

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