Lions want scrum revenge - Ben Alexander
June 25, 2013
Ben Alexander expects a front-no assault in the set-piece © Getty Images
Robbie Deans may have a major backline headache but Ben Alexander has warned of a scrummaging backlash from the British & Irish Lions in the second Tom Richards Test at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne on Saturday.
Alexander, preparing for his 50th Test, is bracing for the grizzled British and Irish forwards to play with revenge on their minds. The tourists were expected to have a big scrum advantage in the three-Test series, but the under-rated Wallabies pack limited the damage in the opening 23-21 loss and came away with their heads held high after two huge "wins" in the final10 minutes. The first forced a turnover from which Will Genia was able to clear the ball from a strong attacking position for the tourists, while the latter, forcing a penalty on the Lions' feed near halfway, gave Kurtley Beale the opportunity to boot the home side to victory.
"The Lions won't be happy with the way they finished, and knowing Graham Rowntree, they'll be working hard on that this week," Alexander said on Tuesday. Lions forwards coach Rowntree has admitted as much and has demanded more consistency and dominance at the influential set-piece.
Ironically, it is the Wallabies backline which is in disarray due to injuries and a disappointing playmaking display at Suncorp Stadium by James O'Connor, who accepted on Tuesday that he had to go back to the drawing board. Indispensable halfback Will Genia is also nursing a heavily-strapped sore knee after a brutal Suncorp Stadium battle.
James O'Connor wants to wear the No.10 jumper again
But at least Deans, whose job is highly likely to hinge on the result of the series, can be comforted by the fact that his pack remains intact and upbeat. "We've always been confident in our scrum," Alexander said. "Bar one game in the last year, we've scrummed well. We've come across their guys plenty of times before. We knew what they were capable of for us. We're very happy. Keeping our cool is something we've put a lot of work into."
A week after revealing their first Test team two days early, the Wallabies are playing a more mysterious game this week. But they didn't mind tweeting that reserve second-rower Rob Simmons was a surprise trainer at blindside flanker when they had a closed morning team run at Xavier College. Wallabies officials said that Simmons, a lineout caller, took to the position as Ben Mowen, who impressed at No.6 in his debut, was restricted to light duties. No.8 Wycliff Palu, who is under more scrutiny due to fitness issues with his knee problem, did train.
Starting openside Michael Hooper said there was definite back-row pressure with versatile 110-cap veteran George Smith recalled to the squad for his breakdown nous, experience and composure. "His experience is crucial in these sort of games and he's been here before," Hooper said.
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin