On the rise ... the Australian pack practice their lineout yesterday. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
WALLABIES coach Robbie Deans has rewarded those who rebounded to beat Wales by naming the same line-up for Saturday's second Test in Melbourne and then gave his pack further accolades by describing them as among the best in the world.
While an unchanged starting XV and reserves bench was no surprise, Deans's praise of his scrum was, considering this group has grown used to often scathing criticism from the northern hemisphere and New Zealand.
Wallabies coaches have for some time been reticent about getting on the soap box about their scrum, because it has often collapsed at critical moments. But Deans argued there was enough shown in the first Test win over Wales to indicate the set piece is becoming a strength.
''Both teams in this Test series are pretty strong at [the] set piece, and both sides like to scrummage now,'' Deans said yesterday. ''Historically Wallabies sides have been accused of trying to avoid the scrum. That's not the case now. We've now got a generation of front-rowers who will serve us really well in that area.''
Deans said the improvement had been gradual, but now they have strength in numbers, as shown by the Wallabies having several options if prop Sekope Kepu has to withdraw this week due to a forearm tendon strain.
''It revolves around experience,'' Deans said. ''These blokes have played a lot of Super Rugby against international opposition. You look at that Waratahs front row for instance. They've done well against all comers and are now getting experience at Test level.
''With that comes composure. Once you get that composure, then you can really home in on the minutiae. When you're composed you can bring your experience to the fore, as opposed to being manipulated. Part of it revolves around credibility as well.''
Deans said the Wallabies scrum had to anticipate that it would be continually criticised in the north, but ''there's no doubt they're up there with the best''. ''That doesn't mean we will win every moment, but we'll be more than competitive in every moment,'' he said.
It is also clear the Wallabies forwards aren't too impressed about being the butt of jokes for so long. ''We've made massive inroads there and are always trying to improve in that area,'' Wallabies second-rower Rob Simmons said.
''In past years, we had gained a bit of a bad reputation, and we want to change that … we all think we can definitely mix it with the best. We've now got to change the perception, also to the referees so that a few calls go our way.''
Did it grate that every time they go on a northern hemisphere tour the local media focus on them, and show them no respect?
''I use it as motivation. I personally don't like people saying that about us as a pack,'' Simmons said. ''We've gained a lot of confidence in holding the Welsh out last Saturday night.
''In the Brisbane Test we had to show to the fans that we still care … So we came out to prove a point, and would like to do the same again on Saturday.''
Wales held off the Brumbies to secure their first win of their Australian tour with a 25-15 victory at Canberra Stadium last night.
Wales romped in three tries to none in a blistering opening half before staving off a late comeback by the home side.