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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
# vindicated
Australia stand firm with scrum the philosopher's cornerstone
The Wallabies’ set-piece proved us all wrong.

THERE IS ONLY so much a proud group of professionals can take.

Australia, not unlike Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland, have had their scrum unfairly derided from all comers.

We’re far from innocent parties here, but we should have known better than to chalk Ireland’s tight five down as clear superiors before a starting kick had been fielded.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie spoke last week of his philosophy of using the eight-man set-piece as a starting point rather than the actual method of putting points on the board.

After forcing Mike Ross into conceding six points off two penalties, those comments were still too fresh in his mind to admit any kind of satisfaction with getting the Leinster tight-head whistled.

“We saw opportunities in a few guys,” came the former prop’s knowing response.

Alongside McKenzie, Australia captain Ben Mowen did not hold quite so much emotion back:

“We haven’t been happy with a lot of the criticism that comes our way,” said the number eight feeling vindicated.

“It’s a huge challenge to come here [to Europe] and play tough scrums week in, week out; but we’ve got good experience now, we enjoy the scrum.

“I don’t think if you asked many blokes up here then they’d rate our scrum, but it’s something we’re looking to right at the end of this tour.”

Ain’t that the truth.

While Ireland were lacking in intensity and defensive accuracy the green and gold front row were technically better too. Post match, Ross had his grumbles, but admitted the overall outcome was probably the right one before looking ahead to ‘unpleasant viewing of the Monday video review:

“With some of them, we would have been disappointed with the referee’s interpretation. Others were fair enough.”

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Pragmatism

Of course, Australia didn’t have things all their own way – both sides gave up three balls on their own scrum – and this Irish front row remains the best available. However, where McKenzie’s philosophy comes into play is that scrum dominance simply enhances the effect of the back-line.

Perhaps, if his scrum’s reputation continues to grow after convincing wins over Italy and Ireland, McKenzie’s reputation just might find itself diluted slightly to allow the odd bit of crowd-displeasing pragmatism.

One philosophy can only take you so far.

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