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Wallabies front row no longer scrum-shy


Paul Mulvey

Brumby Nic White  passes the ball during an Australian Wallabies training session in Melbourne.

Brumby Nic White passes the ball during an Australian Wallabies training session in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images

Gone are the days of the Wallabies front row being scrum-shy.

Coach Robbie Deans says the northern hemisphere forwards can scoff all they like, but the Australian pack will now take it up to them every time.

Deans named an unchanged side yesterday for Saturday's second Test against Wales in Melbourne, with some doubt still surrounding prop Sekope Kepu who has an arm injury.

But Australia's front row depth and strength is highlighted with Ben Alexander to take Kepu's place if he is ruled out and Dan Palmer coming onto the bench.

''Historically probably Wallaby sides have been accused of trying to avoid the scrum, it's not the case now,'' Deans said.

''We've now got a generation of front-rowers who we think are going to serve us very well in that area.''

Australia's pack won the battle against Wales in last week's 27-19 first Test win in Brisbane, laying the foundation for quick ball for scrumhalf Will Genia.

And the loose forwards had the better of the breakdown, an area which frustrated the Welsh.

For years, the Wallabies pack was ridiculed in the north, especially in England where it suffered the ultimate humiliation of non-contested scrums after Matt Dunning, Al Baxter and company were shoved all over Twickenham in 2005.

Deans says the transformation has been coming for some years and it is helped by the consistency and experience gained from the all-NSW Waratahs front row combination of Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson.

And they're well supported by the back-up trio of Alexander, Palmer and hooker Stephen Moore, with Saia Fainga'a also in the squad.

Deans says the experience of regularly competing against the best in Super rugby front rows brings composure, a trait sorely lacking in Wallabies packs of the recent past.

''When you're composed, you can bring your experience to the fore as opposed to being manipulated,'' Deans says.

After his third Test in two years last week, No. 8 Wycliff Palu says, while the front row has made great gains, the back-rowers are now also pulling their weight.

''It's got to be up there with the best packs I've played in,'' Palu said.

''It's all about scrumming as an eight. In years gone by we've probably left it to the front row to scrum while the guys at the back had a bit of a breather and looked at the next ruck.

''I think these days everyone's scrumming, even the back-rowers, even I am. It makes their job a lot easier.''

Deans kept faith with the first Test team which conjured a massive turnaround from the 9-6 loss to Scotland five days earlier.

Fullback-cum-flyhalf Kurtley Beale couldn't force his way back into the team, with Deans saying he needs to regain the strength in his shoulder after having minor surgery.

Beale is also being investigated by police and the Australian Rugby Union over an incident at a Brisbane pub last week in which he allegedly assaulted a bouncer.

Police are expected to announce later this week if charges are to be laid. AAP

Wallabies: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Cooper Vuna, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock (captain), Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.

Reserves: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Nic White, Anthony Faingaa, Mike Harris.

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