TIRED of being penalised for having a suspect scrum, the Wallabies pack this year will try to prove they are faultless up front to ensure a better deal from referees.
The Wallabies forwards coach, former Test prop Andrew Blades, said yesterday the Australian pack have been working hard on ensuring they are ''squeaky clean'' at scrum time. Blades believes that for too long the Wallabies have been unfairly punished because of a perception, especially in the northern hemisphere, that their scrum is poor and often not up to international standard.
''The last few years the 50-50 decisions at scrum time when a scrum collapses will often go against Australia,'' Blades said. ''So we're focusing on trying to take that out of the game by being the ones who work really hard in keeping the scrum up, keeping it square, to fight through those things. It can't be a case of saying, 'The scrum feels as if it is going down, I'll let it go and let the referee make the decision', because we know from a historical point of view we'll come out on the wrong side of the ledger.
''We have to take the initiative. What is important is taking the referee out of it by doing whatever we can to keep scrums up. If we have that mentality, it will make it more blatant when opposing teams are trying to milk penalties.''
Blades said the performance of several Australian provincial packs during the Super Rugby tournament had improved their chances of getting on the right side of referees.
''The players have more of a fighting mentality and believe it is important that you don't give up easily,'' he said. ''You've started to see that in the Super Rugby, such as the Waratahs having a great result up front against teams like the Crusaders. That gives the guys confidence to compete physically at that level. The guys know they can do it. It's now about having your mental attitude right on the day, and that we don't concede anything.''
Educating the players is also occurring with the other crucial set piece - the lineout. The Wallabies management are aware that second-rower Nathan Sharpe won't be around forever, and want to teach the next generation what is required to be a lineout leader.
''What we have tried to do is broaden the scope,'' Blades said. ''We've had Hugh Pyle, Kane Douglas and Dave Dennis sitting in with Nathan Sharpe and Rob Simmons when they explain what is involved in being a lineout leader. We've also been doing it at training sessions, such as yesterday where Kane had to call all of the defensive lineouts.
''You don't want to be in a situation where someone may be out of form but you are forced to pick him because he is calling the lineouts. The more guys who have that base understanding the better.''
Blades joined the Wallabies coaching staff in June, after being involved for a short period as forwards coach when Eddie Jones was in charge. The former Waratahs tight-head prop said his opening months with the forwards this time around was aimed at ''getting consistency''.
''In regards to scrum and lineout work, each of the Australian franchises do things very differently. So during this period we have been trying to get the simple things right.
''From a scrummaging perspective, we concentrated on our ball in the Wales Test series and we were quite effective. We delivered virtually all of our ball, and there were almost no penalties or free kicks.''