The scrum-half is an integral player a kingpin that connects the powerhouse forwards with the three quarter line runners. Usually better suited to players with a low centre of gravity, quick thinking, fast, agile and tough. Fun fact, for some referees a cocky scrum-half can be annoying. Often the smallest player in a rugby team the ref is pushing the scrum-half to play the ball quicker as they make many tactical decisions during a game. Wherever the ball is the scrum-half is not far behind whether it is with the forwards or backs. The scrum-half or N.9 is responsible for feeding the ball in scrums and receiving the ball at lineouts in order to pass it to the centre backs he will also perform tactical kicks to gain territory and work with the N.8 forward who is the only player allowed to use his hands in a scrum apart from the N.9 in set moves. We have seen some fantastic scrum-halves performing on the world stage, let’s have a look at a few of the most famous in the history of rugby.
Danie Craven known as Mr. Rugby who served S. African rugby as a player, captain, coach and S.A. Union member for over 70 years plus Chairman of the then IRB which later became World Rugby. His playing career was interrupted by WWII, however, he continued to support and promote rugby until his death in 1993. Regarded by his peers as a true visionary of the noble sport of rugby. The world’s most voted Best Ever Scrum-half by the players and the fans is the lad from Wales Sir Gareth Edwards, Wales dominated the 60s and 70s and Sir Gareth was described as a magical genius on the field and his defining moment in his career was ‘that try’, hailed as the best in world rugby during the Barbarians v N. Zealand in 1973. He earned 53 caps for Wales and winner of seven 5 Nations of which 3 were Grand Slams. A perfect scrum-half even by today’s standards and still revered as the greatest scrum-half of all time, GOAT status. Sir Gareth was inducted to World Rugby’s Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Danie Craven. Another great world class scrum-half again from S. Africa was Joost van der Westhuizen who played in the 1995 S. Africa World Cup Winners squad. Incredibly strong and tall (1.88m) but agile made him a tricky adversary to play against. Capped 89 times during his 10 year career which saw him retire in 2003 but not without a grand exit as he scored 3 tries in his last match as captain against Uruguay in the RWC. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2011 which he succumbed to in 2017 at the age of 45. The most capped Australian players is scrum-half George Gregan with 139 appearances for his country. His Wallaby golden moment was the try saving tackle on N. Zealand’s Jack Wilson to enable Australia to win the Bledisoe Cup. He captained the national team 59 times and was honoured with the Order of Australia in 2004. We move to the northern hemisphere now and pay tribute to England’s tenacious Matt Dawson who played scrum-half in England’s only RWC win in 2003, he supplied the pass to Jonny Wilkinson whose famous drop goal kick won it for England in the dying seconds of extra time against Australia. Matt earned 77 caps and captained his country 9 times and he is one of 2 players that won the world titles at 15s and 7s. His post-rugby period saw him captain again on the popular tv quiz show A Question of Sport. Matt has not yet been inducted to rugby’s Hall of Fame and the only Englishman who has as a scrum-half because he invented or developed the N.9 role of linking the forwards to centres by creating the scrum-half role, Alan Rotherham who represented England in the N.9 shirt from 1882 to 1887 was recognised and inducted into the Hall of fame for his contribution to rugby as we know it today. His influence on the game was enormous by creating a more structured running and passing game. He played 12 times for England in those early years of developing rugby, well played sir.
In more recent times the role of the N.9 position has seen even more development and world class performance with 2 young players that have exploded onto the rugby scene. The first is Francois de Klerk or Faf as he is commonly called. This big little powerhouse coming in at 80kg & 1.71 tall is one of the best scrum-halves in rugby today and he already has a world cup win with S. Africa as we saw in Japan against England in 2019. He currently plays for UK club Sale Sharks dazzling his fans and upsetting his opponents with his quick thinking and outlandish strength and skills. He was told he would never make it as a pro, what an inspiration and role model to all young players. The other remarkable and new sensational scrum-half hails from France. His talents were displayed in fine fashion during the 2020 6 Nations tournament the 24 year old Antoine Dupont is a highly intelligent player and possesses all the attributes a modern world class scrum-half requires. He came up through the ranks to play in France’s U.20 and given the chance to excel in the 1st 15 national team which he has with an incredible performance during Europe’s top tournament of the 6 Nations. We will see a lot more of him and France at international level.
P.s- for all of you who have not yet made it into the Rugby Hall of Fame we recommend attending the annual Krakow Ruby Festival in Poland. Apart from many other awards you can win the “Golden Moments Cup” and enjoy the unlimited beer throughout this action and fun packed rugby tournament 😉