Friday 26 December 2014

George Hook: An open letter to Joe Schmidt

Published 17/12/2012 | 05:00

Dear Joe,

Please forgive the uninvited mail, but I know it is a principle of coaching to seek information from any source and this is meant as a suggestion to help what I see is a recurring problem for Leinster and Ireland.

The set piece has cost you and your team dear. On Saturday, almost every scrum could have ended in a penalty against Leinster, and the line-out inaccuracies turned a possible win into a loss in Clermont.

Despite what I am sure was an intensive week's practice, there was little improvement at the throw-in at the Aviva.

You were not to blame for the scrummaging shambles you inherited. This was a product of criminal disregard by the IRFU and successive national and provincial teams who were in denial for over a decade about our failings in the front.

The sticking plaster solution of mercenaries from the southern hemisphere culminated in last year's disaster at Twickenham. I sympathise with you in trying to pick up the pieces.

However, the scrum and line-out are fairly simple technical issues to coach, while the line-out in its simplest form is hardly different from throwing a dart at a board.

However, you must be held responsible for the line-out failures.

Interestingly, nowhere in the raft of experts employed by Irish rugby can I find a throwing coach – an amazing omission given the cost of failure in that area of the game.

If Sean Cronin and Richardt Strauss were golfers, they would never hit a fairway.

Throwing to the line-out is like hitting a golf ball; it starts with the grip. Your hookers grip the ball incorrectly.

Cronin, since his arrival in the big time, has been a suspect thrower and it appears that nothing has been done to help him. Interestingly, Bernard Jackman's international career was ended by his inability to find a jumper.

May I offer my help? I have no wish to either join the coaching team nor interact with your players, but I can show you how to get help to solve the problem in a matter of weeks.

Even Brian O'Driscoll using the correct method could be better than the current incumbents. Interested?

Yours sincerely,

George Hook

Irish Independent

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