Rugby Championship
Wallabies still adjusting to Ledesma scrum school
Sam Bruce
August 4, 2015
'There's a trophy on the line'

Wallabies prop James Slipper insists Australia's much-maligned scrum is heading in the right direction, saying the tight five is still adjusting to the practises of Pumas great Mario Ledesma.

The Wallabies forwards face another stern Test of their set-piece credentials in the Rugby Championship decider with the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday. In their two previous contests, wins over the Springboks and Pumas, the Wallabies pack has started slowly before improving after half-time.

Slipper, who started both Tests at loose-head prop before being replaced by the impressive Scott Sio, said he was confident the scrum was improving and that the pack was ready to take another step forward against the All Blacks.

'Great players always play good'

"They're improving but they're obviously not where we want them to be at this stage," the reds front-rower said of the Wallabies scrums on Tuesday. "Another tough Test against the All Blacks and a very good scrum, but it's also a very different scrum to the Argentinean one we faced a couple of weeks ago. So it's another Test for us and whoever gets picked in the team I'm pretty confident will do the job."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika wouldn't be drawn on possible changes to the forwards, but he did say the returning Wycliff Palu was in line to start at No.8. He must also find a replacement for the injured Rob Simmons at lock, meaning there will be at least some disruption to the pack.

That could potentially create some issues at scrum time, with Slipper saying the non-Waratahs forwards in the Wallabies squad were still coming to terms with Ledesma's methods.

"I think, for us, with Mario coming in this year and a lot of players haven't been working under him as the Waratahs have this year; so it's about making sure everyone's on the same page and are working to a common goal there, and basically it's take some time to adjust," he said. "But I feel like we're definitely improving and we're moving in the right direction. In terms of the All Blacks, they scrum pretty similar to us and we're looking forward to a good contest there; I think it will be pretty even."

Mario Ledesma first assisted with the Waratahs, and has now followed Cheika to the Wallabies © Getty Images
Wallabies need to feel the heat: Cheika

Saturday's clash with the All Blacks represents virtually a carbon copy of the final Tri Nations fixture from four years ago. The Wallabies defeated the All Blacks in Brisbane on that occasion, but they have failed to do so again since.

Slipper said it would be nice to repeat that victory from 2011 and add the Rugby Championship trophy to a cabinet that already boasts the Nelson Mandela Plate and Puma Trophy; but he also alluded to the bigger picture - Rugby World Cup 2015.

"I think it is important, we play the game to win and we're representing our country so trophies are pretty important. In saying that though, it is a World Cup year and we're trying to do the best that we possibly can leading into that and we've only had a short preparation under Cheik. So it's been a lot of hard training weeks; a lot of tough sessions and that's about just getting the volume into the players leading into the World Cup. But it's a trophy on the line this weekend; we haven't won it since - well, we haven't won the Tri Nations since 2011 - so it'd be good to get our hands on it and keep it."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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