Wallabies' scrum might surprise at World Cup

The Wallabies' scrum (yellow jerseys) is improving - just in time for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match against world rugby champions, the New Zealand All Blacks.
The Wallabies' scrum (yellow jerseys) is improving - just in time for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match against world rugby champions, the New Zealand All Blacks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • Australia's scrum still has a great deal of room for improvement but might not prove the Achilles' heel at the rugby World Cup that pool opponents England and Wales expect it to be, lock Dean Mumm said yesterday.

A competitive performance at the set piece last Saturday at Sydney's Olympic Stadium was one of the rocks on which Australia built a first victory over New Zealand in 11 attempts to clinch the Rugby Championship.

Mumm, who was making his first Test start since 2010, has just returned from three years in English rugby at Exeter and is well aware of how Australia's scrummaging is perceived by their fellow players in the Northern Hemisphere.

"The Poms are not so keen on us scrummaging, they feel it's an area that can be pressured and one they feel they have dominance in," the 31-year-old said.

"I think that's a great opportunity for us. We went okay in the scrum at the weekend and I think we're certainly improving as an entity there, but we still have a long way to go."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is well aware of Australia's frailties up front, perceived or otherwise, and brought in former Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma, who also played in French club rugby, to work on the set piece this year.

"Mario's been good," said Mumm. "He's got that balance of the Argentinian and the European perspective from his time playing over there.

"So he understands the mentality associated with it and where scrummaging is concerned that's as big an element as any."

The grandson of an All Black and born in Auckland before moving to Australia as an infant, Mumm knows very well how deeply last Saturday's defeat will be felt on the other side of the Tasman Sea.

He is also aware of what that means for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup clash at Eden Park, where New Zealand last lost in 1994 and Australia last beat the All Blacks in 1986.

"New Zealand are the best team in the world because they're consistent," he said. "They won't have a performance they weren't happy with and repeat it a week later.

"We're expecting a pretty full-on Kiwi response. It's a very tough task, many teams have struggled there, but it's a task we're very much looking forward to."

The All Blacks have pledged to right all wrongs during the re-match at fortress Eden Park.

"Everybody has taken it personally," lock Brodie Retallick said yesterday. " We need to get our roles right around the breakdown and react when we're not in our structure." REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Wallabies' scrum might surprise at World Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe