Aussies rely on pace and flair to make up for AWOL scrum
At Twickenham on Saturday, it will be, as baseball's master of tautology Yogi Berra once observed, deja vu all over again. Australia will yet again arrive without a scrum.
Prepare for more high farce. The comic figures at prop were once Matt Dunning and Al Baxter, then last summer Down Under when England were wreaking havoc, they were Ben Daley and Salesi Ma'afu. Now they are Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander -- and we were told they were the answers to Australia's problems!
The late withdrawal of hooker Stephen Moore with a back twinge undoubtedly had an effect, leaving his replacement, Saia Faingaa, as easily the lightest forward on the field at 93kg (14st 7lbs), but still the Australian scrum was an utter shambles in Cardiff. Referee Wayne Barnes penalised them at virtually every engagement.
"We were pretty confident going into the game how we would go there, and it was pretty pleasing for the front row," said Wales prop Adam Jones. "England have a big front five themselves with Sheri (Andrew Sheridan) back. They will attack them at the scrum."
But, of course, Wales still lost, despite also achieving their stated aim of quietening the outstanding David Pocock at the breakdown. There, Sam Warburton did his work admirably, but even if Australia only effected three turnovers, they scored from two of them in the second half. They were clinical.
"We've really got to work on switching on from any turnovers and getting back in the (defensive) line," said Wales' other outstanding prop, Gethin Jenkins, who was exposed by James O'Connor when Kurtley Beale scored a crucial try just after half-time. The truth is that Wales' limited game plan was exposed by Australia's superior pace and ingenuity. Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Drew Mitchell, O'Connor and Beale were all outstanding.
Yes, Wales have injury problems, but there was still a glaring lack of creativity. Mike Phillips was mute at scrum-half, and Richie Rees, scorer of Wales' only try, injected noticeable spark as a late replacement. As did Martyn Williams on his 100th international cap.
As for Australia, out-half Cooper did not seem unduly concerned about the scrum.
"The boys have been working very hard on that aspect of our game and we will continue to work on it," he said.
And they will need to. Sheridan and Dan Cole will be licking their lips. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
WALES -- J Hook; W Harries, T Shanklin (C Czekaj 76), A Bishop, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; G Jenkins (P James 71), M Rees (H Bennett 75), A Jones, B Davies, A-W Jones (D Jones 74), D Lydiate, S Warburton (M Williams 65), J Thomas.
AUSTRALIA -- K Beale; J O'Connor, A Ashley-Cooper, M Giteau (B Barnes 67), D Mitchell; Q Cooper, W Genia (L Burgess 74); B Robinson, S Faingaa (H Edmonds 54), B Alexander (J Slipper 62), M Chisholm (D Mumm 75), N Sharpe, R Elsom, D Pocock, B McCalman.
Ref -- W Barnes (England).