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Horan cautious over scrum success
PA Sport
February 20, 2008

Few positives emerged from the ruins of Ireland's disastrous World Cup campaign but prop Marcus Horan believes an improved scrum was one of them.

Ireland's front row would have been forgiven any concerned looks when learning their pool rivals were to be supplied by Argentina, France and Georgia.

The trio - especially the Pumas - are feared scrummaging nations who attack the set-piece with gusto, yet the Irish refused to be intimidated.

Instead, they silenced the relentless barrage of criticism that has dogged their scrum with a series of displays that sent the self-belief of Horan and tighthead John Hayes soaring.

And that confidence was no more evident than in Paris 11 days ago when jubilant Ireland fans were treated to the rare spectacle of the French pack
being pulverised five metres from their line.

Two successive collapsed scrums, albeit with France's rookie substitute prop Julien Brugnaut contributing, led to a penalty try.

For Munster's much-maligned props it was a personal triumph that has helped blunt years of disparaging comments aimed at themselves.

But while Horan insists the empowerment of Ireland's scrum was forged in the furnace of their World Cup misery, he stresses the need to keep a sense of
reality.

''We were in a very tough group in the World Cup with regards to scrummaging and I believe that has stood us in good stead for the Six Nations,'' he said.

''We did really well in the scrum in the World Cup. I don't think there has been an issue with our scrum over the years - that's just come from individual
criticism in the press.

''Guys have their reasons for it but we've always worked hard. Now it's important not to fall in love with ourselves because of what happened against
France.

''There was another pushover try on the cards in that game, too, and we fluffed that. So we have to be critical on what happened.''

Horan, who is preparing for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash against Scotland, maintains a change in emphasis during training has also contributed to Irish
progress at the scrum.

''Over the past 12 months we've seen the benefits of live scrummaging in practice, rather than just hitting the machine,'' he said.

''You can't beat live scrummaging and coming up against some of the best scrummagers in the world. That will stand us in good stead now.''

Horan has amassed 53 caps and given Ireland's lack of depth at prop it is crucial the 30-year-old remains injury-free.

And he is determined to enjoy his Test career for as long as possible after an AIB league match for Shannon against Garryowen in November underlined his
privileged position.

''I was left out of a Munster game and I felt I needed a match if I was to be in contention for the Heineken Cup the following week, so I asked Shannon if I
could play,'' he said.

''It was a derby match in Limerick which I really enjoyed. It brings you back to your roots and gave me a lesson in what it's all about.

''When you see guys grafting away at club level, you appreciate things a lot more. I'd always like to keep my ties with Shannon.''

Horan gave his opposite number - an amateur named Declan Lavery - a torrid time in Shannon's 8-6 victory but hopes he will have benefited from the duel.

''The individual I was up against had a tough day at the office. But I came up against experienced guys when I was starting out,'' he said.

''I faced Peter Clohessy and a few more. And whether you have a good day against them or a bad one, you'll always learn from it.''

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