Refresh Series: Scrummaging with WP Nel

Refresh Series: Scrummaging with WP Nel

With rugby club youth sections up and down the country slowly returning to action, we're giving young players the chance to refresh their skills as we bring you a series of masterclasses from our top pros - writes James Parsons.

Next up in the series is Scotland international tight-head prop, WP Nel. The club centurion has established himself as one European rugby's elite scrummagers since joining the club in 2012, and recently became only the 10th player to reach 150 appearances for Edinburgh Rugby.

WP shares some of his top tips for young props on how to win the scrum battle as they return to competitive rugby, and how to get started if they haven’t played in the front-row before.

From his scrummaging fundamentals to his scrum time mindset, Nel shares all to help the next generation of set-piece heroes.


Three fundamentals of scrum time

“Neck exercises and core stability are important, and then working on your shape so that it becomes second nature.

“You can work on other things like your legs in the gym, but you need to know the technical things about your shape and engaging your core, and strengthening your neck.

“You can easily work on those three things in the backyard, pushing against a tyre or something like that. You can do it all at home, before you even get on to the pitch."

Assess the situation

“For me, I try to trust myself that I’ve prepared properly during the week. I assess the situation first, to decide if I want to have an attacking scrum.

“There are a few things that go through your mind, is it in your half, or their half, and if it’s your ball. If it isn’t, you want to focus on having a clean scrum, and make sure you don’t give away any penalties.

“If it’s your ball you want to show that you are the dominant scrum. You want to show who’s on top early in the game.

“I can assess after the first scrum if I can dominate my opposite man, or if I need to up my game to stay with them.”


Every set piece is a clean slate

“Every single scrum is a new opportunity to attack, or a new opportunity to be stable. I take every set piece as a clean slate, and don’t think too much about what previously happened.

“You don’t want to be over eager if you’ve lost that first scrum!

“Nowadays, the scrums are a bit more 50/50, you can dominate the first scrum and then the decision will go against you for the next one.

“So every scrum needs to be a new opportunity. If you overthink what happened previously in the game, you can end up doubting your process and make mistakes, even if you’ve been on top in the past.”

No secret tricks, focus on technique

“If it was five years ago, there would have been a few secrets and tricks, things you could do at the engagement to get an advantage, but today it’s more about your strength and technique.

“Back in the day, the old guys would have tricks up their sleeves to get dominance, but now you have to be strong, and have good technique to win.”


Being a prop isn’t for everyone… but give it a go!

“If people are keen on being a prop, you need to work on repetitions, working on your core strength and engagement, neck strength and your position. It’s not something that comes naturally at first, you work on it.

“You either want to do it, or you don’t. Give it a go and get your head in there, and you’ll see if it’s for you. There are small things you can do and work on, but being a prop isn’t for everyone!”

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