PARIS: Robbie Deans will be wishing he had not tempted fate. A few days after declaring the Australian scrum had earned the respect of Test referees, the French pack convincingly won the battle for referee Nigel Owens's whistle and built a game-winning platform from which to trounce the Wallabies. Prop Sekope Kepu called the experience ''a massive learning curve''.
''There were some harsh calls but I think we just have to deal with it and move on and fix things up, I guess, and move into next week,'' Kepu said.
Deans said in Paris last week that referees had finally started to accept the Australian scrum technique and judge games with that in mind.
''There's a greater respect now for our scrum,'' he said. ''We've stood up against the best and had good moments against the best. With that awareness you get a more consistent interpretation, if you like. If your scrum becomes more than competitive with the bests scrums in the world, then they tend to judge what they see rather than an idea they have.''
Solid performances against Argentina and New Zealand confirmed a general consensus the Australian set-piece had finally attained a level of skill, matched with talent depth, to match it with the teams of the northern hemisphere.
Kepu was selected at tight-head this week with the expectation France's technically excellent scrum would be the side's biggest challenge. It was. But after the Argentina and New Zealand Tests, during which no obvious alarms were raised, the Wallabies' scrum could not compete.
''You are only as good as your last game,'' Kepu said. ''We prepared, and we trained well, but when you put yourself in situations for the referee to make calls, that's when things get a bit hard to deal with.
''We have to try and control what we can do as best as possible. In patches we thought we were dominant but I think the early dominance from them helped them in the back end of the game as well.''
The English, who the Wallabies face at Twickenham next weekend, will not be lacking confidence after thrashing Fiji and watching tapes of the dismemberment of the Wallabies set-piece. They lost their No.1 hooker, Dylan Hartley, to injury but France also used some young forwards.
''No doubt [England will] look at [the] game and lick their lips but we have confidence in the boys, not only the front-rowers but also as an eight,'' Kepu said. ''We have to bear up and fix things. I don't think there is much to fix, just the attitude and being mentally prepared. England are going to be tough, no doubt. We have a week now to turn things around.''