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Schmidt's first goal at Leinster is to fix scrum

INCOMING Leinster coach Joe Schmidt believes that tackling the issue of the scrum represents the single greatest challenge to Irish rugby. And it is not just Ireland who are deficient in this phase of play, he argues.

Teams from England, Wales and Scotland are in a similar situation, according to the Clermont backs coach, who will replace Michael Cheika.

Schmidt spoke about the differences in the game in France ahead of this Saturday's French Championship decider against Perpignan.

What he said underlined the important lessons to be learned from a New Year that has ultimately been a failure for Irish rugby, especially after the extraordinary deeds of last year.

Do the players of Ireland, England and the other home nations possess the ball skills and technique of the French, it was asked of Schmidt?

"In the Six Nations, France did it across the board and yes, they did show some real ball skills. They played really well but I thought where they dominated was in the set-pieces, particularly at the scrums," Schmidt said.

"Leinster couldn't access the game in Toulouse; Munster couldn't access the game against Biarritz. They both got shut out by the superb set-pieces of the French. That is something to think about for the Irish.

"They are competitive across the field. But to get the quality of ball and to protect their own ball, that is a big challenge for them. Power and technique up front are crucial.

"It is something I will look at closely when I get to Dublin. I don't profess to be an expert about what is happening up front but I have a lot of faith in (forwards coach) Jono Gibbes, who I think has done a really good job. He is one of the reasons why Leinster have done well in the past two years."

From that, we can deduce that the affable Schmidt won't be swinging the axe at the coaches from the Cheika era.

Elsom retained as Australia captain

Former Leinster star Rocky Elsom will lead the Wallabies against Ireland when they meet in Brisbane on June 26.

Australian coach Robbie Deans today announced that Elsom had retained the captaincy for the Aussies' 'winter' campaign, which this week begins against Fiji.

Deans named seven uncapped players in his squad: hookers Saia Faingaa and Huia Edmonds, props Ben Daley, Laurie Weeks and Salesi Ma'afu, flanker Matt Hodgson and centre Rob Horne.