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Saracens fan Ben Ireland analyses what makes a good scrum-half and why it's such an important position for Sarries
In the last few years, scrum-half play in England has developed into two often divergent strands.
On the one hand, we have the emerging breed of ‘converted winger’ 9s, such as Danny Care, Ben Youngs and Joe Simpson. These are guys with blistering raw pace, and a love of the quick-tap, runaway try.
The other strand is more of a dying breed, scrum halves with excellent core skills (e.g. box kicking) and a focus on impeccable, consistent service.
Richard Wigglesworth, Neil De Kock and Ben Spencer would all fit into this category.
Incidentally, you can attribute Ben Youngs' success in an England shirt to the fact that he is the player in the first category who best incorporates the skills of the second.
Our scrum halves are integral to the way Sarries play.
In defensive situations, he is the key component of our exit strategy. He takes on the responsibility of the clearance kick - which itself is reliant on blockers and chasers being put in place.
In terms of the box kick itself, it needs to have the height and accuracy to make the chasing line as effective as possible, or the distance to avoid too attacking a lineout for the opposition.
Week in, week out, we see English scrum halves lacking in this apparently core skill.
On our part, Wigglesworth is easily the best EQP exponent, with Spencer close behind - and Neil De Kock is better than either.
In attack, Sarries tend not to use the nine as a creative player.
Some clubs (Leicester, Quins, Wasps) rely on the raw speed of their half-back to check a rush defence, or to pull players out of alignment to create holes.
Some clubs send all their forward runners to pick lines off the half-back, rather than the fly-half.
For the Men in Black, the nine's job is very simple: to get the ball into the ten's hands as quickly and regularly as possible.
This relies on the scrum-half never being caught in possession - which needs speed and decisiveness. Some nines take seconds to get the ball off the floor and away from the breakdown.
And what is required above all is an immaculate passing game – something of a dying art in the modern game, but one where Sarries are well stocked.
The obvious advantage of this quick service, is that the fly-half takes the ball on the front foot, and has a split-second more time to pick out his best running option.
Kevin Sorrell and the rest at Sarries will be hoping that, in the next couple of months, as the familiarity in the outside backs increases, this good-quality ball will be turned into tries.