A guide to playing lock

As an aging 2nd rower now retiring gracefully down the grades I would be only too happy to share with you some of the secrets of this oft maligned position.

Firstly, reading the game. The secret to being a great 2nd rower is to "read" the game, as any good lock will tell you charging out of the set pieces chasing poncy backs is NOT a smart move and will only result in speedy exhaustion. By "reading" the game you can conserve much needed energy for the one or two important phases of play where you will actually be involved. DON'T listen, should anyone ridicule this advice, for there are many who don't understand the athletic skills involved in 2nd-row-manship (or womanship) and the requirement for energy conservation.

Secondly, lineout. This is where 2nd rowers shine, while the rules have changed to allow imposters (anyone less than 120kgs) into the position, subtle skills still remain. Here is my list, memorize them, and remember, never divulge these secrets to anyone other than fellow second rowers.

1. Always jump by raising your inward elbow horizontal to your opponents face, some think this is a threatening maneuver but in reality is for stability.

2. There is NOTHING wrong in leveraging your jump by using your opponents shoulder, in fact the new lifting laws do not prohibit this once outlawed tactic.

3. If your opponent does get the jump on you i.e. first in the air, all is not lost, simply barge the opposing props or assist in the lift. The former will ensure the ball falls awkwardly for the half back, while the latter will see him/her suffer oxygen deprivation. Either are well within the laws and often utilized by national teams.

4. Remember, the two meter law requiring space between opponents was drafted by men, so the two meters is really only 1 meter and tends to get smaller over time. In the first lineout the referee will always try and get a wide berth BUT as the game develops you can freely move closer. While not widely known the distance in a lineout follows the same principles as the well know accounting method of depreciation - sum of the years digits.

5. Tap ball. While most of your training time will be taken up practicing two handed catches, this is a decoy ploy. NEVER try to catch two handed when a simple tap to (or near) the half back will suffice. A two handed catch only slows down the delivery of ball and WORSE, makes the game far to easy for the half back and could result in you missing one of the games real joys, watching the little guy being caught and trampled by your opponents forwards. This MUST happen at least once a game to enable the half back to play to their full potential, don't forget most great halfbacks look like startled rabbits, for a reason.

6. The hooker defense. ALWAYS remember, good lineout ball results from your leaping abilities, poor ball is always the result of a poor throw. This is the GOLDEN rule. If you miss a perfectly thrown ball swear loudly and glare at the hooker, no further comments will be necessary.

Thirdly, scrums. You are the engine room, where the game is won or lost so it is vital that you have finely tuned skills in all aspects of scrummaging:

1. You must bind tightly to your second row partner, this is to ensure that the #8 is firmly wedged between your hips, and destroying their ears and face, as much as yours will be destroyed by your front row. This must happen if you are to have ANY chance of attracting a sexual partner. #8s are similar in stature and usually fitter, they and the flankers are a main contender for any spare dates left by the backs. The last thing you want to happen is to be left on the shelf with the props.

2. Pushing. You must develop a pact with the front row which minimizes the amount of pushing conducted during a game. By about the third scrum they will have realized that the opposing pack is as good (or a bad) as them and that only the odd surprise push will result in disrupting their scrum, the opposition will have also realized this. The pact which results will see you "holding" on your feed, while pushing only every third or fourth opposition feed.

3. Wheeling. This tactic is thought to be employed to disrupt the opposition's ball. In reality, as a 90 degree wheel results in a refeed, the real purpose is to give the forwards a well earned rest. Two or three wheels last in either half or after a frantic piece of play is often required.

4. The Props defense. If the scrum goes well, indeed sometimes during the game you may get the opportunity to participate in a push over try, REMEMBER to claim the glory. Talk often about the "engine room" and while the props may try to grab the glory remind them that the real drive always comes from the 2nd row. If the scrum is performing badly ALWAYS blame the front row, point out their poor technique with comments like - bind tighter, get lower, get higher, he's popping you, you're crabbing, get the hit on, you're packing too close, your right leg is too bent, bend your right leg, your left leg is too bent, bend your left leg........................

Fourthly, passing. DON'T. Even though 50% of your training will be passing the ball this is also a ploy (see above) and, on the one or two occasions you do get the ball in broken play, make sure that, for the 0.5 seconds before you get tackled, that you don't release the ball. NEVER forget this golden rule, for should you pass, broken running play may ensue, robbing the game of another set piece opportunity.

Fifthly, tackling. MINIMIZE your tackle count. I aim for no more than 1 or 2 tackles per game. Aim for the half back (see lineout above) or a straggling winger. Props and 2nd rowers are exempt from this facet of play so the 1 or 2 tackles you make will be enthusiastically rewarded.

Sixthly, tries. Here timing is important. 2nd rowers never get try scoring opportunities unless they read the game (see 1 above). These will usually occur 10 meters from the opponents try line on the 3rd or fourth breakdown, so make sure you are in a ball receiving position. WARNING, this will usually be where the other 2nd rower and three front rowers are gathering so $10 to the half back before the game is needed to ensure you are given the ball. To be in position you MUST feign injury at the 1st breakdown, or allow one of your own players to trap you at the bottom of the ruck, this will ensure you are nowhere near the 3nd breakdown until the ball is delivered.

Seventh, rucking. Never make the mistake of thinking that rucks have anything to do with getting the ball, they are designed for settling old scores, slowing down some of the opposition's faster backs and giving you a rest. Some tricks include the squirrel grip and stomping, which is required when you suspect your opponent is lying on the ball, surprisingly this can even happen when the opposing half back is about to deliver it to his backs.

Thats about it, I hope this assists in developing your career as a 2nd rower. Good luck and welcome to the club.

The Weird World of Rugby (c) M.M. Roelofs, Amsterdam, NL
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