Argentinian’s transformation of Aussie scrum means Welsh pack must up game, says Baldwin...
Wales hooker Scott Baldwin has acknowledged the South American influence on a transformed Australia scrum.
Former Argentina front-row star Mario Ledesma has been working closely with the Wallabies in that key set-piece area, and Australia showcased their scrummaging power by overpowering England last Saturday on the way to a resounding 33-16 win.
Wales are next up at Twickenham this weekend in a Pool A decider and the Welsh scrum is due a big performance following struggles against England and Fiji, even though they won both games.
“The scrum has been a big part of (Australia’s) game, which is something you probably wouldn’t have said 18 months ago,” Baldwin said.
“Mario Ledesma has had a big influence there.
“It’s something we have to step up to as a pack because we haven’t been where we need to be. Our timing has been off. There is nothing wrong structurally, but we need to put it right this weekend.
“We had a big open chat on Monday about the scrum. Hopefully, we’ve put that right in training. It’s little things we all need to do, but as an eight.
“I spent a bit of time in Italy a few years ago, and the forwards coach there was Argentinian.
“He was always going on about breathing techniques in the scrums. I’m not sure Ledesma has done that, but he’s done a great job.
“The biggest thing with them is they’ve done what they’ve practised. They have stuck to what they know, and got their reward.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland, meanwhile, is set to select from a fully-fit squad for Saturday’s encounter.
Gatland has lost almost a sixth of his original 31-man World Cup group - Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Webb, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos and Cory Allen - to tournament-ending injuries but the situation is now better than at any point during the competition.
Full-back Liam Williams (concussion) and prop Paul James (calf) were not available for last week’s victory over Fiji but both players could be involved when Gatland names his matchday 23 today to face the Wallabies.
“We’ve had a longer turnaround for this Australia game, which has benefited the lads a lot,” Wales’ consultant head of physical performance Paul Stridgeon said.
“We managed to give them a couple of days off after the Fiji game, so they come into this game a bit fresher.
“We are all fully fit. We have got a couple of bumps and bruises, but generally we are good to go.”
Gatland could make a small number of changes for the Wallabies clash, with prop Samson Lee, lock Luke Charteris and flanker Justin Tipuric among those who might gain call-ups.
Meanwhile New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has dismissed any injury anxiety surrounding All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
McCaw will miss his team’s final Pool C game against Tonga in Newcastle tomorrow after suffering a bang on his thigh during last week’s victory over Georgia.
“If we were playing a final, he would be fine, but we are just not prepared to take any risks with anyone that is not 100%,” Hansen said.
“He got a bang on his thigh and it’s just really sore when he stretches out at top-medium pace, so it is just not worth risking it.”
Number eight Kieran Read takes over leadership duties in McCaw’s absence, while centre Ma’a Nonu will become the sixth All Black to win 100 Test caps after McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina.
New Zealand have already booked a place in the quarter-finals, where they are set to face Ireland or France, although their performances to date have not been of the vintage variety.
Elsewhere England have denied their squad was close to mutiny over a training ground bust-up involving Danny Cipriani and Mike Catt.
It has been confirmed by the World Cup hosts that a flashpoint — described as a “robust conversation” — erupted between the fly-half and attacking skills coach on the day before the squad was announced in August.
Cipriani was disappointed at having learned the previous evening that he was to be omitted from the final 31 after George Ford and Owen Farrell were selected as the chief playmakers.
When the 26-year-old failed to perform a drill in the manner requested by Catt, a row ensued, which reportedly almost led to a more serious breakdown within the squad.
“Danny and Mike were involved in a robust conversation on the training pitch following a misunderstanding around a training drill instruction,” said an RFU spokesman.
“Mike’s only intention was only to get the best of the player as he does for all of the players. Both shook hands afterwards.”
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