Australia's scrummaging machine faces hard week

Wales 16 Australia 25

Australia are the great entertainers of world rugby. Their dancing backs are a joy to behold and their collapsing scrum is a laughing stock. Certainly at their gig on Saturday it was gasps of wonder and giggles all round before the Welsh crowd were forced out into the evening air to confront the realities of yet another Tri-Nations humbling.

The Wallabies will head for their next tour stop in south-west London on the weekend knowing that it may not be so easy to carry the show with a bunch of mud-tasting clowns. One Australian commentator described the task ahead as only an Aussie could. "Heads down, bums up. For the next few days those guys should be sticking their bonces between buttocks."

The scrummaging machine at their training ground is in for a hard week, although unless they make a rapid improvement then it may well come out on top. Goodness knows what the England front-row could do to them; but then, we had a taste of that with the red rose victory in Sydney in June. Once Martin Johnson sees the tapes of this shambles, he will be hopeful of a repeat.

To counter what Matthew Rees, the Wales captain, called "an obvious weakness", Robbie Deans made a phone call to Tatafu Polota-Nau on Saturday night. The hooker travels out, ostensibly to provide cover for a hooker crisis which saw first-choice Stephen Moore pull out with a back injury before the game and then Saia Fainga'a with a thigh complaint. But Polota-Nau is 18st and powerful and, despite not playing internationally this year because of an ankle injury, provides obvious bulk.

When Polota-Nau arrives today he will need no telling of what to expect at HQ, but also at Leicester for tomorrow's match. "Of course they're going to be looking at our scrum," said the loosehead Benn Robinson. "We definitely can't be having that going forward. It's just not acceptable." Robinson went on to provide some explanation of why it was Wayne Barnes felt obliged to award Wales seven penalties at the repeatedly collapsed set-piece.

The previous Saturday, in their Hong Kong win over New Zealand, the referee Alain Rolland continually penalised them for engaging early and Robinson claimed this had played on the front row's minds here. As Deans emphasised, Australia spent all afternoon being beaten to the hit, and although he suspects that referees over-penalise the Aussie scrum because of its reputation, he is confident they can remedy the fault.

"You can see when we get a nice clean hit we can definitely put some pressure on," said Robinson. "It won't take much for our scrum to change around or adjust to make sure that we're on top of it." If they do, then England must beware. "Australia are deadly behind the scrum," said the Wales wing, Shane Williams. "We knew that beforehand, but knowing it and stopping it are two different things." Indeed, the back three were simply scintillating and in Kurtley Beale they possess the world's most exciting full-back. Inside they aren't too shabby, either, and although Quade Cooper, at fly-half, saw too many cute passes go to ground, his attacking influence is undeniable. Despite suffering in terms of possession, Australia made three times as many clean line-breaks as their counterparts, ran twice the number of metres with ball in hand and ultimately scored three tries to one.

For the Dragonhood they make alarming statistics that should douse some of the optimism swirling around the camp on Saturday night. Granted, it was a dominating performance up front but their inability to convert that into anything other than a late, scrum-induced try for replacement scrum-half Riche Rees was evidence of the lack of a cutting edge and the absence of any strength in depth. Afterwards, the Welsh management spoke of having five Lions missing. "If we can get them fit we will be a strong team," said the defence coach, Shaun Edwards.

For now, they will look to Lee Byrne to return from a broken hand this week and his impact could be two-fold against South Africa. First, he runs the angles from full-back to threaten any defence and secondly James Hook can return to the midfield position where his talents will not be wasted.

"It will go down as another chance blown against a southern hemisphere side but feeling sorry for ourselves isn't an option," said Williams. "I expect us to be better against South Africa. The Springboks are more direct and forward-orientated than Australia, they try to out-muscle teams. But our boys were magnificent up front."

Wales: Tries R Rees; Conversions Biggar; Penalties S Jones 3. Australia: Tries Pocock, Beale, Alexander; Conversions O'Connor 2; Penalties O'Connor 2.

Wales J Hook (Ospreys); W Harries (Dragons), T Shanklin (Blues), A Bishop (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Dragons), S Warburton (Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys). Replacements M Williams (Blues) for Warburton, 66; D Biggar (Ospreys) for S Jones, 66; R Rees (Blues) for Phillips, 66; P James (Ospreys), 75; D Jones (Blues) for A-W Jones, 75; C Czekaj (Blues) for Shanklin, 75.

Australia: K Beale (Waratahs); J O'Connor (Western Force), A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), M Giteau (Brumbies), D Mitchell (Waratahs); Q Cooper (Queensland), W Genia (Queensland); B Robinson (Waratahs), S Faingaa (Queensland), B Alexander (Brumbies), M Chisholm (Brumbies), N Sharpe (Western Force), R Elsom (Brumbies, capt), D Pocock (Western Force), B McCalman (Western Force). Replacements: H Edmonds (Brumbies) for Fainga'a, 54; B Barnes (Waratahs) for Giteau, 68; D Mumm (Waratahs), R Brown (Western Force), L Burgess (Waratahs), L Turner (Waratahs).

Referee: W Barnes (England).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape