Crouch, set, press pause for scrum insights
If there is one player Owen Franks likes to study when peering into his laptop, it is Nicholas Mas.
You get the feeling Franks would be less inclined to analyse opponents if it wasn't part of his All Blacks' job brief, but when it comes to watching French tighthead prop Nicholas Mas, he is only too pleased to attend to business.
Franks, a specialist tighthead who would rather retire than switch to loosehead or become a swingman like older brother Ben, was a 15-year-old at Christchurch Boys' High School when Mas made his test debut against the All Blacks at Lancaster Park a decade ago.
Mas, now 33, started against Dave Hewett when France were beaten 31-23 that evening.
"He's obviously one of the best tightheads in the world, someone I like to watch scrum," Franks noted.
"I've never really looked to see how he plays around the field. I look at the scrums and I think the role of the props are a bit different in France - they are not expected to do as much around the field but he seems pretty mobile."
Since his international debut in Christchurch, Mas, who plays for the Perpignan club in the French Top 14, slowly built his reputation and, like All Blacks captain Kieran Read, will play his 50th test tonight.
Having sat out the first test at Eden Park he has been shunted back into the side to replace Luc Ducalcon; coach Philippe Saint-Andre, having expressed disappointment in the set-piece after the 23-13 defeat, is now backing Mas as they strive for a dominant scrum.
Franks, who has raced to 44 test caps since his debut against Italy in Christchurch four years ago, admits he wasn't overly enthusiastic about analysing opponents when he was younger.
Even now it hardly makes his pulse race. It is a necessary evil.
"I wouldn't say I enjoy it. I guess when I started I tried to stay away from it but you can't really do that, being a professional rugby player.
"Basically they have a whole package of the French scrums on different players and things like that. There's a lot of footage on there. You don't have to watch all of it because there's a lot of the same but you can get an idea."
This year the All Blacks are also carting a giant screen around the country so they can immediately review their moves and techniques on the training ground.
But nothing beats playing, Franks adds.
"Video is one thing but it is actually quite deceiving sometimes because if you look at some scrummagers everything is wrong when they set it, and the way they engage, but they still can scrum very well."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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