England World Cup guru called in to help young Wales captain now on Pivac's radar

England World Cup guru called in to help young Wales captain now on Pivac’s radar

A well-known darts player of the 1950s is said to have only played his best after 15 pints of Guinness.

His nerves would doubtless have been calmed.

But quite how the chap could even see the board remains a mystery no-one ever got to the bottom of.

Each to his own, though.

The assumption is the man in question practised a bit to get where he was in the first place.

Most teachers and coaches will agree that doing something regularly is central to the concept of improvement. Even Mozart, we are told, had to put in the hours.

If a sportsperson is fortunate to have expert guidance along the way as well, then it stands to reason he or she will stand even more chance of being a success.

And so to the Ospreys, where they are using a specialist lineout coach to upskill players, with the hookers among those who will benefit.

Simon Hardy is the expert in question.

Over his career, he has spent 22 years with England sides, his stint covering the senior team that won the 2003 World Cup. Self-employed, he has coached 46 international hookers on a one-to-one basis, from Richard Cockerill to current charges who include Stuart McInally and Jamie George.

He has also helped out Australia, Saracens, Gloucester, Edinburgh and Melbourne Rebels, so the Ospreys are in good company when it comes to utilising his services.

Potentially, he could help their highly promising young hooker Dewi Lake take a great leap forward.

The 6ft 1in, 17st 7lb former Wales U20s captain has the potential to be a serious player. He is already very much on Wayne Pivac’s radar, with the Kiwi known to be a fan.

When he came on for the final quarter against Glasgow Warriors last weekend, he drove into opponents as if they had offended him in another life; he stopped ball-carriers dead with jolting tackles; he contested ball at the breakdown and displayed an uncommon physicality.

In sum, he looked a player who could be ushered into Wayne Pivac’s Wales senior squad without delay.

There’s one problem.

He’s still a work in progress when he throws to lineouts.

Dewi Lake of Ospreys
(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

Almost every hooker alive has been there. Keith Wood, the great Ireland No. 2 and one of the stars of the 1997 Lions tour, reached a point where he went to a psychologist and was told to use a mantra before he threw. Steadily building confidence during a game also helped.

So Lake isn’t alone.

Practice, or the idea of putting brains into muscles, will help.

So will Hardy.

“We have a specialist throwing coach who’s come in,” said Ospreys head coach Toby Booth.

“Simon Hardy has worked with England and Australia and is a good friend of mine. He comes in as a consultant and works with all our hookers.

“That’s really important to us as we need to upskill all our players, especially in closed skills.

“If we don’t have the time or the expertise, it’s important we adapt our programme in order for us to do that.

“Dewi will be the beneficiary of that, for sure.”

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth
(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

Booth, a former hooker himself, agreed with the idea that repeated drills don’t hurt. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s different types of practice, honing techniques, throwing under pressure, coming out of a scrum and then having to throw to a lineout when you’re fatigued.

“So there are lots of layers to it.”

But the Ospreys team boss can identify a good prospect when he sees one, and he feels Lake, who led Wales to victory over New Zealand at the U20 World Cup in 2019, is a player who could go places.

“The exciting thing about him is that he’s brave, physical and abrasive,” said Booth.

“Those are prerequisites to be a top hooker.

“So that’s great.

“He’s learning his trade in and around the setpiece, something which always takes the longest.

“It’s probably the hardest skill in the game, throwing to such a competitive environment.

“That will always be the last piece in the jigsaw.

“The more competitors we have on the pitch, the greater our chances, and Dewi’s certainly a competitor.”

This weekend, Lake starts for the Ospreys against Racing 92 in the Heineken Champions Cup.

He is still working on his darts, and patience may have to be key.

But with Hardy helping him, a route to improvement has clearly been mapped out.

That’s good news for the Ospreys, and it could also be a major positive for Wales.

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