If Waratahs’ Super Rugby scrums look the same in 2018 as they have in the past, a preseason visit from referee Angus Gardner may just be the reason.
A number of technical scrummaging laws have been changed ahead of the Super Rugby season, and top Australian referee Gardner was at Daceyville on Wednesday to help ensure the Waratahs were well-acquainted with them.
Waratahs hooker Damien Fitzpatrick, who will captain the Waratahs in their first trial on Friday, said Gardner had taken players through the 2018 law changes, before officiating their scrums in training.
“There is a small window where you can invite some refs in to just try and work out to make sure what you're practising is actually legal because in the dark world of scrummaging the lawas change so frequently,” he said.
“This year, there's been some new laws brought in that Gus has relayed to the entire group and it was really important for him to go out and have a look at our scrummaging session to make sure we're on the right track to play the game legally.”
Whether fans would notice the specifics, Fitzpatrick isn’t sure, but if the session is successful, there should be little to detect.
“They're pretty intricate changes but hopefully if the players know the rules, then you probably won't know the difference because the player won't break the rule,” he said.
“if they do the job properly, fans probably won't notice a lot of difference but if they don't do it well, they'll be wondering they’re on a five-metre lineout against the run of play.”
Where NSW’s backline will be stacked with stars this year, only bolstered by the return of Kurtley Beale, their forwards have fewer recognisable faces, and Fitzpatrick said it was important to ensure they lifted their game.
“We've obviously got the injection of Kurtley coming back, which will only add more firepower to that backline, so it's going to be really important that we do the job up front,” he said.
“We've been really working in small stages and that's a credit to Daryl (coach Daryl Gibson).
“He's making sure the boys are staying on track, just chipping away week after week making sure we're getting our small goals but we just want to perform at our best.”
The Waratahs fly to Queenstown on Thursday ahead of Friday night’s trial against the Highlanders, kicking off at 4pm AEDT.
NSW opens its Super Rugby season on Saturday February 24 against the Stormers, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.