Wallabies scrum now ready to 'pressure' All Blacks
August 7, 2014
James Slipper (centre) walks Mount Panorama with team-mates Christian Leali'ifano and Scott Higginbotham and V8 Supercars drivers Mark Winterbottom, and Russell Ingall © Getty Images
James Slipper insists the Wallabies' scrum has improved since it was dismantled by the All Blacks last year, saying the set-piece might just be ready to put their Kiwi tormenters "under pressure".
The Wallabies won just 60% of their feeds against New Zealand in the 2013 Bledisloe Cup campaign, as the teams competed for the first time under the new scrum laws that minimises the force of collision and require the half-back to feed the ball straighter. And Slipper insists the Wallabies pack, with one year of rugby since the "crouch-bind-set" command came into play, are much improved for the Bledisloe Cup opener in Sydney on August 16.
"In that first game, both teams were kind of feeling out the new laws," Slipper said as the Wallabies went to the iconic Mount Panorama motor-racing circuit in Bathurst. "It was pretty scrappy. Both teams were guilty of feeding it in crooked. But over the last year, especially our spring tour and against France, we've really scrummed at a level we're happy with."
Slipper also noted that the New Zealand front-row had a lot more experience ahead of last year's series - especially Test centurions Tony Woodcock (now injured) and Keven Mealamu.
"You can't really replace experience," the 52-Test veteran said. "For us, we were coming through and were young, learning the hard way. But I feel like we're starting to play at a level where we can put them under pressure."
Yet there's no denying the Wallabies scrum is about to have its depth tested.
Australia's Ewen McKenzie talks to V8 Supercars driver Russell Ingall at Mount Panorama © Getty Images
Their two leading hookers, Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau, are injured - with third-choice rake Nathan Charles expected to start - and reserve prop Scott Sio has also been ruled out with an ankle injury.
"Both Moore and Polota-Nau have been huge contributors to this Wallabies team," Slipper said. " They're going to be sorely missed. But in saying that, when you lose one or two players, it gives opportunities to young players. Nathan scrums well. And his work around the field is exceptional."
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton