View Comments
New laws in scrum put Cowan on notice
Pek Cowan at training yesterday. Pic: Nic Ellis/WA News

Long-serving Western Force prop Pek Cowan is facing new challenges as he heads into his ninth Super Rugby season.

Top of the list will be adjusting to the new scrum laws that are already in use in other competitions and on the international stage, but will make their debut in Super Rugby this year.

The "crouch, bind, set" sequence means a softer engagement, reduces the importance of the hit and puts more emphasis on the technical side of scrummaging.

However the International Rugby Board has scrapped the referee's "yes nine" call from the sequence, used when the referee believes the scrum is ready for the feed.

The IRB said a "non-verbal communication" will now be used after criticism that the call alerted the defending front row exactly when to push, taking away the crucial timing advantage for an attacking pack.

"It has been tough trying to adjust. It's getting there but it's a very slow process," Cowan said.

"If you are not technically efficient it can really sting you in terms of your own ball, but these rules also give the opportunity to the attacking scrum to attack so defensively you've got to be quite smart.

"Foles (coach Michael Foley) and the coaching staff have worked really, really hard on our technique.

"We've been breaking it down as much as we can and starting again because obviously it's something completely new.

"It's obviously different, trying to shake old habits is not easily done and it takes a little bit of time."

Cowan's early pre-season was hampered by a torn calf muscle, but he is now back to full fitness and believes the coaching staff has found a better balance at training.

"Physically I'm feeling really, really, good and mentally feeling really refreshed," he said.

"We got through a pretty tough and gruelling pre-season. This is the business end.

"We've got a lot smarter. We've got the balance between ball in hand, fitness and strength and conditioning.

"We've set a few realistic goals. We believe in what we are setting in front of us. It is really exciting to see the shift in the group."

Cowan, 27, is one of only two Force foundation players left - the other being captain Matt Hodgson.

Cowan made his debut in the club's fifth match against the Waratahs in March 2006 and now has 75 appearances. His existing contract expires this year, but he wants to remain in Perth.

"It's just a matter of time," Cowan said.

"Obviously we're very busy now and we're going to be very busy leading into at least April-May. Hopefully we can try and sort something out in that window."