Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, former
Wallaby prop MATT DUNNING discusses his weight loss, the Kurtley Beale text scandal and
offers a prediction ahead of the Bledisloe Cup Test at Suncorp Stadium on
asked: You lost 44kg in five months. Share your remarkable physical
Dunning: After I retired from
rugby I didn’t put on a massive amount of weight, but definitely lost muscle
and gained fat. After not training for two years, I tipped the scales at 130kg.
The trigger to lose the weight came when I saw a photo of myself playing for a
local rugby league team. I was disgusted with myself and decided it was time
for a change. I took in two meals a day, including a shake, and cleansed four
days a month. I am now more efficient at work and feeling much healthier.
asked: Your take on the Kurtley Beale text scandal which has engulfed
Dunning: The situation is obviously very disruptive
for Australian rugby. It’s never good to have Days of our Lives dramas playing
out in our sport. Whether it did or didn’t affect the players against
Argentina, only they will know. While the whole situation is a mess, it would
be silly for me to take sides, because everywhere you go in Australia you hear
contrasting reports. Hopefully the ARU can clean up the mess, as off-field
distractions certainly don’t help the Wallabies win Test matches.
asked: When you were a Wallaby, talk about the code of conduct that was expected.
Dunning: The way I look at it, you are responsible
for your own actions and the way you conduct yourself both on and off the
field. If you step out of line, you are definitely disciplined. I can talk from
experience having been at the wrong place at the wrong time a couple of
occasions during my playing career (Dunning once punched a teammate and had an
incident with a taxi driver). We have to hold sporting professionals to a high
level of conduct otherwise the game will lose its credibility. However, you
can’t expect rugby players to be robust and fiery on a Saturday and then choir
boys from Monday to Friday. For me, it just doesn’t work. I believe that we
can’t ask athletes to conduct themselves above and beyond what we expect from
other professionals in our society.
asked: Outline the fundamentals of effective front-row play and the lottery at
Dunning: The two most important aspects of
front-row play pertain to body shape and transference of force. In terms of the
former, it’s about having your shoulders, hips and legs at the correct angles.
The only way to conduct force in the scrum is to keep your feet on the ground.
If you lift your foot and haven’t moved the other scrum back, that’s when you
lose effective body shape. The key is to have sixteen sets of studs on the
ground, all in perfect body shape bearing down and applying force. Scrum-time
will always be a lottery, as it’s a difficult area of the game to officiate. 99
percent of referees policing the scrum haven’t packed in the front-row, and
many haven’t played in the scrum at all. If a scrum collapses with one team
going backwards, they are generally the side that should be penalised. If one
prop’s body shape is poor, I would look to penalise him rather than the prop that’s
getting his shoulders and hips in line and legs between a 90 and 120 degree
asked: You packed down at both loosehead and tighthead prop. Explain the
Dunning: I started out as a loosehead prop and
gained a lot of bad habits. But when I moved to the tighthead position properly
in 2008, I began as a blank canvas, so had less bad habits to break. While I
enjoyed playing in both positions, if you get tighthead right it’s a pretty rewarding
position. At tighthead, there is force on both sides of your body, because
there is a head either side of you. Whereas at loosehead, the force only really
comes from the one side – no one is packing on your outside. While you are a
lot more stabilised at loosehead, tighthead is tougher, because there is a lot
more force moving through you. I always say that the most important players in
a rugby team are the tighthead prop and the reserve tighthead, because the NO 3
is the cornerstone of the scrum. However, there is now less of a need for
players to fulfil both roles, because of the Test match 23. Had a full
front-row been introduced during my career, I believe I would have played in
asked: You played in eight Bledisloe Cup matches from 2004-08. Which Test
Dunning: I would say that the 2007 Test in
Melbourne, which we won 20-15, stands out in my mind. I wasn’t picked in 2006,
so that year was my first time back in the Wallaby jumper. Ironically, my
brother had scheduled is wedding on the same day. He probably thought that I
wouldn’t make the Wallabies that year, so I missed his wedding. It was an easy
decision in the end, but I always tell him it was a tough one to make. That win
over the All Blacks was pretty special after we had previously lost narrowly to
South Africa in Cape Town after a monster Francois Steyn drop goal.
asked: Who were the most memorable coaches you played under during your career?
Dunning: Bob Dwyer was a great coach at the
Waratahs. He is a very funny man and was always a good man-motivator. But what
I loved most about Bob was that long after he had given coaching away, he would
pick up the phone to tell me how well I’d played, which was pretty special. The
times when he rang me, I knew I’d played extremely well, so he was an astute
judge of performance. I also loved being coached by Eddie Jones. He brought the
best out of players by working them as hard as he could. There was no political
correctness with Eddie and you knew exactly where you stood with him 100
percent of the time. When he was unhappy with you, he told you again and again.
Some players didn’t like that, but I didn’t mind it, because if you were doing
the wrong thing, Eddie would give you a serve. Michael Foley was the best
technical coach I played for in terms of forward play. Without him, I would not
have been able to make the move to tighthead.
asked: The Wallabies host the All Blacks on Saturday. Offer your outlook for
Dunning: The All Blacks are a quality side and
showed that by again securing the Rugby Championship. The Wallabies have a lot
to prove after what’s happened in the last couple of weeks. However, there is
no doubt that the Wallabies play exceptionally well at Suncorp Stadium and they
can use the off-field issues as motivation. I lot of people may think I’m mad
for doing so, but I’m picking the Wallabies to win 29-25. I see Adam
Ashley-Cooper, in his 100th Test, scoring a match-winning intercept try. I believe the Wallabies will dominate
at lineout time and at the breakdown.
Hennie le Roux
Peter de Villiers
Braam van Straaten
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk