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Waratahs paying hefty penalty as veteran second-rower becomes main offender


Georgina Robinson

Following orders ... the Waratahs Dean Mumm.

Following orders ... the Waratahs Dean Mumm. Photo: Steve Christo

HALF a season is a long time in rugby, just ask Dean Mumm.

The most-capped second-rower in Waratahs' history started the year outside his squad's leadership group, became its pin-up boy with a passionate performance against the Sharks, signed with English club Exeter and then endured calls for his benching. All before Anzac Day.

And now the 28-year-old is topping all the wrong statistical indicators, proving Super Rugby's most prolific conceder of penalties and the Waratahs are turning the ball over to the opposition more than any team in the competition when he's involved.

The irony is that Mumm is following his coaches' instructions. They've asked for more aggression from him this season, but the penalty count, 24 going into round 11, suggests he's over-delivering.

''One of the things that [coach Michael Foley] has been keen for him to do is bring more impact to his game,'' Waratahs defensive coach Greg Mumm, Dean's brother, said.

''And I think probably both of these areas are areas where he's probably just trying a little too hard and as a result he is giving a few penalties away and [has] turned a few balls over that he may not have done in previous seasons, but he's just trying to bring a bit of impact to his game.''

And while he may be far and away the side's worst offender as far as hard numbers go, the Waratahs coaches have been zeroing in on why the third quarter of many games has seen the entire XV falter.

''Our penalties are obviously something we started to assess more and more recently off the back of probably finding that that key moment where we've lost control of games has coincided with us giving an increased number of penalties away,'' Greg said.

''One of the big things we try and do … is put as much pressure on the opposition as we can at [the] set-piece and looking at Dean's numbers, whilst they're not stats that you'd want to be topping, a lot of those are coming through set-piece stuff.''

The scrutiny seems to be paying off. The Waratahs conceded just four penalties against the Crusaders last week, down from 11 against the Rebels and 14 against the Force.

''We try to coach these guys right to the limit of the law and giving one or two away there, whereas Dean's probably pushing a little bit too hard,'' Greg said.

''We're starting to focus on bringing that mindset that we can keep things under pressure without maybe taking that one step too far and giving away those penalties that guys like Dean have been giving.''

Meanwhile, Melbourne Rebels back row Jarrod Saffy has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a bulging disc in his neck.

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Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
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