Forget the poor reviews that follow the Australian pack whenever they play, Ireland will have to up their game at scrum-time when they lock horns with the Wallabies on Saturday, warns Irish forwards coach John Plumtree.
Ireland enjoyed a dominant set-piece last Saturday which provided a stable platform for the 40-9 victory over higher-ranked Samoa at the Aviva Stadium but despite the Australian scrum being exposed by the likes of the British & Irish Lions, South Africa and New Zealand over the summer, Plumtree is demanding improvements for this weekend’s clash.
“We would have liked to have applied a little bit more pressure,” Plumtree said of his pack’s scrummaging performance against the Samoans.
Tighthead prop Mike Ross believes his Australian front row rivals were being unfairly judged.
“There’s a perception out there that Australia are on the wane or whatever but I don’t agree with that because you look at who they’ve been losing to,” Ross said. “They’ve been losing to the Lions, losing to New Zealand and losing to South Africa. They’re all top teams and, are they third in the world, Australia? That shows you where they are at.”
And the Leinster mainstay agreed with his forwards coach Plumtree that there would be a step up in class from the Samoans to Ewen McKenzie’sWallabies this Saturday evening.
“That was my first time playing Samoa,” the Corkman said. “Before, what you’d say about Samoa is they’re dangerous in broken play but go after them in the set-piece. But, you know, ask Wales how that went last year. They’ve got an awful lot better.
“I’d say Australia are a bit more organised, probably more clinical and more difficult to play against.”
Ross spoke of Ireland’s frustration at the time spent last Saturday on scrummaging and the physical toll it took on the legs of bulky front rowers.
“We don’t like to spend ages setting and resetting because it does take it out of your legs. So probably the less resets the better as far as we’re concerned.
“The way the scrummaging laws have changed this season, prior to it a scrum might last four or five seconds. Now you’re getting 12, 13, 14-second scrums and that has a knock-on effect.
“You’re channelling a lot of weight through your legs, you’re pushing harder, you’re supporting that load, so it does cause some lactic to build up. Your legs get a bit heavier but at the same time your back and your neck feel better. Last year it was essentially like a little bit of a car crash in terms of the packs coming together. Now, it’s more of a lean-in. The pressure still builds but it’s not instantaneous.”
Much like the effect McKenzie is having on the Wallabies having succeeded Robbie Deans as head coach following the Test series defeat to the Lions.
At least according to Plumtree, whose path crossed with the former Queensland Reds boss over many Super Rugby campaigns when the Ireland forwards coach was in his native New Zealand and then with the Sharks in South Africa.
“I think under Robbie there were little off-field issues and I think (Ewen’s) been hard on that, they had that latest issue with James O’Connor,” Plumtree said, refereeing to the Australian back’s contract cancellation by the ARU following a string of off-field misdemeanours. “He is a no-nonsense sort of a coach. He will have a pretty tough culture within that group and if you look at their stats as we’ve been doing over the last four or five games they have scored 18 tries, walloped Argentina away, went down against England and had a good win against Italy. They look like they are starting to come right and often a coach needs a bit of time and I think the Australians understand that.”
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