Luis Arola: The Front Row Factory
Muddied and bloodied the two packs collide as fans from opposite sides shout "heave!" at the top of their lungs...
Often described as inflicting the same forces as "a small car crash", the scrum is an integral part of the game which is why coaches and players spend hours binding, crouching and perfecting their trade. I recently interviewed Luis Arola, who along with his team launched a project which solely revolves around the scrum!
The Front Row Factory Team:
Luis Arola – Head Coach and Project Leader- I played the majority of my rugby in Argentina as back-row/2nd row player travelling to Canada and Scotland to pursue the game. I was a referee in all those 3 countries, reaching national panel groups and am now a full-time coach.
Ignacio Borras, Marketing (Corstorphine Cougars RFC player).
Burhan Torgut, Video Analysist (Glasgow Warriors assistant analyst, ex Cyprus International, ex Worcester player).
Felipe Arregui, mentor and consultant, currently playing for the Super Rugby franchise Los Jaguares in Argentina, and Argentina national team Los Pumas.
1. What is The Front Row Factory?
" TFRF is a project to develop the scrum set piece. Even though the name suggests Front Row work, we work with the full pack on technique, body strength and safety as well as the mental aspect of why scrum is important in the game.
We are passionate about scrum! To play a good scrum, it has to be safe (paramount) and enjoyable. To be safe, players must be strong and technically prepared; we do a lot of work on technique and body strength and we spend a lot of time on safety techniques in case things don’t go to plan, aka collapse scrum. If the players are fit and technically and mentally prepared they will get more out of it and enjoy the play.
The original idea/plan was to work with under U18s and below to build up body strength and technique to prepare them for club/higher level rugby and reduce injuries. This has developed to working with University and adult rugby clubs.
When did it all start?
In season 2016/17, I started coaching the forwards at the University of St. Andrews and realised our pack was a bit weak up front. I put forward a proposal to the Director of Rugby to run a special skills session once a week for all the club’s front rows. We called it Front Row Factory (what a surprise!) and the project developed from there".
2. Where are you based?
"Edinburgh in Scotland, but we are happy to travel the world. With great success we have run The Front Row Factory coaching program this pre-season in Spain, Cullera RFC. The programme ran over 3 days with local coaches and coaches from Valencia and Madrid attending to take part and share learning".
3. Have you worked with any notable players or teams?
"As part of my career development in 2016 I spent time with the Super Rugby Crusaders, NZ at their International High Performance Unit. I was lucky enough to meet Mike Cron, All Black scrum and forwards coach and was able to learn a lot from him including receiving feedback on coaching techniques. As head coach of The Front Row Factory I was invited to attend an Australian National team (The Wallabies) session in 2017 and met Mario Ledesma with whom I shared ideas and coaching tips. Both men are inspirational. However, there are many very good coaches and players out there who we can learn from and share knowledge with. Coaching is always a learning process!"
4. What are some of your success stories?
This project is very young, still in its first season, however we are proud to have developed the University of St. Andrews scrum, proving an asset on all three of the university teams. The players are excited by the project and look forward to playing the scrum at every opportunity, putting all their hard work into practice. We worked with Howe of Fife RFC pre-season 2017/18 once a week and they now have a set piece scrum where they can apply pressure and launch attacks on the front foot. We are also introducing our project to Merchiston Castle School".
5. What’s the long term goal of TFRF?
"We are hoping to get involved with more schools and clubs to help them to develop young and not so young scrummagers. We also run workshops for coaches to cement the players learning – Our focus is to teach safe and enjoyable techniques.
This scrum set piece is key and unique to our sport. We promote #PositiveScrum which can be done as we do at The Front Row Factory with hard work, skill and integrity"
Sounds like a fantastic project and I'm sure clubs near and far will be looking into TFRF's services
Written by Shawn Boatin