Front three can put Ireland on front-foot

Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Des Berry

You never get a second chance to make a first impression especially when Wayne Barnes holds the whistle.

There is a well-founded perception out there that the English referee is slow to move from a first impression opinion of what happens in the scrum.

Ireland can put a hole in Wales plans for The Principality by splitting their scrum in two.


The home front-row three to this point Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Thomas Francis is weakest when time comes to engage.

Loose-head Evans is a handful in the loose without the scrum technique to back it up.

Ireland tight-head Tadhg Furlong can put him in a bind and keep him there.

On the other side, Francis is far from secure as a large specimen lacking the technical expertise to convince at the international level.

"We want to prove that we can go on the road and beat teams of that quality," said Ireland's Jack McGrath.

"We've had pretty tough battles against them over the last few years We're not expecting anything less, especially at home," added McGrath.

For all of Ireland captain Rory Best's virtues, his greatest strength is his scrummaging.

It has always been this way for an Ulsterman who does not enjoy the same level of support on either shoulder as, say, James Tracy and Richardt Strauss at Leinster.

When Ireland and France were stable and legal, the men in green had the advantage there.

The growing security of Leinster's powerhouse Furlong at tight-head and the competing interests of McGrath and Cian Healy, steadily getting back to what he was, provide real meat in the argument for Best and the rest to turn the screw in the scrum.