The All Blacks' frontrow club about to welcome a new member

Kane Hames will become the latest member of the All Blacks front-row club on Saturday.
BRETT HEMMINGS/GETTY IMAGES

Kane Hames will become the latest member of the All Blacks front-row club on Saturday.

Being told they all don moose antlers and butt heads was probably too much to ask.

All the same, you do suspect there is some kind of initiation ritual that comes with joining the All Blacks' frontrow club. Kane Hames becomes the latest member on Saturday, when New Zealand meets Australia at Sydney's ANZ Stadium, and if there's been a secret handshake to learn this week, then Owen Franks wasn't saying.

With 80 caps to his name, and Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock no longer around, Franks is presumably club captain. He insisted Hames doesn't have to do anything spectacular to earn his accreditation.

Owen Franks is now the leader of the All Blacks' frontrow club.
RUSSELL CHEYNE/REUTERS

Owen Franks is now the leader of the All Blacks' frontrow club.

"No. Just scrum well and you're in the group," Franks said.

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There's a lot more to the modern props game than that. But the fact is you'll have a short shelf-life in international rugby if you can't scrum.

Coming off he bench has been Wyatt Crockett's role of late.
FIONA GOODALL/GETTY IMAGES

Coming off he bench has been Wyatt Crockett's role of late.

The tighthead prop doesn't lie awake dreaming of scrums, but they are an important part of his life.

"Favourite thing? I don't know if they're a favourite thing," said Franks.

"You enjoy when you have a good scrum, but I guess scrummaging is quite painful so it's not something you jump out of bed and look forward to. But the challenge of scrummaging is what I look forward to the most and scrumming well and the physical contest.

"When it comes down to it it's pretty simple, with eight guys pushing against eight guys and trying to see who's the strongest."

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Indeed. But it's also a critical launching pad for attacks and an area referees love to penalise. 

There's also the psychology of scrummaging. Dominating that facet of the game is a massive boost for one side and hugely deflating for the other.

Australia tried at assert some scrum superiority the last time these teams met, in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. They went to the extent of holding the ball in the scrums for long periods of time, which some might regard as disrespectful.

The All Blacks haven't forgotten, although loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett was wary of antagonising anyone too much.

"Particularly at the start of the game, it's about sending a message about who's the dominant scrum," Crockett said.

"We've just got to make sure we show up right from that first scrum with the right attitude and the right intensity level so we can try and take it to them."

Crockett has a big role on Saturday. Joe Moody has been New Zealand starting loosehead this year, with Crockett cast in the role of "finisher."

He's now going to have to set the tone and play more minutes than the 30-odd he's been getting. Moody has tended to be replaced just after halftime, but it would be bold to throw the uncapped Hames in that early.

As always, the All Blacks are favoured to win. But it's 2013 since they were victorious at ANZ and they've tweaked their usual Sydney routine, in an effort to buck the recent trend.

 

 

 

 - Dominion Post

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