In all probability scrum half is the most difficult position to play on the pitch. I’ve played it once, many moons ago in an old boys match when we had a surfeit of forwards and no scrum half. Needless to say we played with nine forwards that day and any ball that the backs received from me was accompanied by an ambulance.
At scrum half not only do you have to be incredibly fit, you also have to possess a long and fast pass, be able to break both from set pieces and loose play, be able to kick for position, be able and willing to tackle players twice your weight and, on top of all that, maintain a clear head and make key tactical decisions on behalf of the team. Being able to ballroom dance and cook cordon bleu food also helps.
Little wonder then that in reality, beneath the very top levels of the game, a scrum half (or half back for the benefit of any antipodean readers) rarely possesses any or all of the qualities listed above, but instead displays the following attributes:
- a shortness of stature. “Napoleonic” is a word often used to describe scrum halves, both in terms of their height and character. I have played with and against tall scrum halves, of course, but they just don’t look right;
- a masters’ degree in stroppiness, a nasty streak and an ability to wind up opposition forwards until a fight breaks out, which his own forwards invariably have to deal with;
- the ability to talk and offer non-stop advice for 80 plus minutes, even when running at full speed and often when buried at the bottom of a ruck;
- a belief that he has x-ray vision, enabling him to see through the forest of forwards surrounding him and make sound tactical decisions without listening to advice from anyone else, which he can’t hear anyway as he’s deaf;
- absolute certainty that whatever tactical decision he makes is the correct one, even when it obviously isn’t;
- an incredibly thick skin to deal with the abuse he gets from the majority of the team who think he should have done something different;
- a Welsh accent. I don’t know why, but the majority of scrum halves I’ve played with have been Welsh, although given the attributes I’ve described above perhaps that’s not so surprising.
There, I think that covers it. Hope that helps…