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VIDEO – Australia preview: the scrum battleground

16 November 2012

  • Lancaster, Catt, Youngs, Parling, Care, Cole and Wood on Wallabies
  • How important will the scrum be against old rivals Australia?


From Andrew Sheridan’s Man of the Match dismantling of Matt Dunning at Rugby World Cup 2007 to two penalty tries in Perth in 2010, England’s scrum has enjoyed success over Australia in recent years.

Spend any time in the company of England Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree and you’ll come away with the feeling that, quite rightly, the scrum is important every week but does it bear greater significance when the Wallabies are in town?

A sizable chip off Rowntree’s old Leicester block, hooker Tom Youngs, who hit 16 lineouts from 16 on his debut against Fiji, said: “As an England pack, we always want to target the set piece, so I don’t think it is any different to any other week.”

Geoff Parling, the man who will call Youngs’ throws on Saturday, agrees with his domestic teammate, saying the platform it creates is important in any game of rugby, for two reasons.

“Not only does it give you the ball to go and play your attacking shapes, it mentally drains the opposition,” said the 29-year-old. “If you can get the upper hand it will wear them down and take it out of their legs for later in the game.”

England's front row celebrate a penalty try against Ireland in the 2011 RBS 6 Nations

Photo: Getty Images

England’s pack is in dominant form at home, gleaning penalty tries in the last two fixtures against Fiji and Ireland, but similarly Australia won more scrum penalties than anyone else in the recent Rugby Championship.

While supremacy at scrum time is not everything – England lost 27-17 in Perth despite sending the Wallabies eight wheeling backwards at will – what would dominance mean to how England can play the game on Saturday?

Danny Care, the link between forwards and backs at No.9, said: “If you get that good quality ball it makes my life so much easier. With a strong, stable scrum or a scrum going forwards we can build great attacks.”

Flanker Tom Wood, who returned from a 14-month injury-enforced international hiatus against Fiji, added: “It has a knock on effect on your mauling, pick-and-go game and play around the fringes, and also sets the tone for the referee. If you’re on the back foot giving away free kicks and penalties at the scrum it does play on his mind.”

England scrum half Danny Care on the run against Fiji

Photo: Getty Images

Australia were humbled 33-6 in Paris last weekend and England Attacking Skills coach Mike Catt describes them as a “wounded animal.” That will only feed their desire to put in a performance against an opposition with a long and historical rivalry which transcends all sport.

Care trotted out the old adage “they don’t like us, we don’t like them much either” and Youngs drew on memories from international age-grade games (as a centre) to say “there’s always something about it, there have been some cracking games against Australia.”

Wood agrees that the rivalry is a “big deal” but said this England team will not get caught out by the emotion of the occasion.  “For this young crop of players it’s more about the processes of winning these games and testing ourselves against the best teams in the world,” he said.

And Catt, a veteran of 11 Tests against the Wallabies, added: “If Australia come away from this tour beating England they’ll probably see it as a successful tour.”

Given that assessment, Stuart Lancaster and his men will be doing everything to secure a third straight victory over Australia on Saturday.