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Wallabies' heads back in the game as they face another Italian job

Hair-raising occasion ... Ben Alexander packs down against England's Joe Marler at Twickenham on Saturday.

Hair-raising occasion ... Ben Alexander packs down against England's Joe Marler at Twickenham on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

FLORENCE: Ben Alexander might have been in the front row when the Wallabies beat Italy by 18 points two years ago today but his memory tells a different story to the scoreline.

Alexander, packing down beside starting hooker Stephen Moore and loose-head prop James Slipper, was shunted from pillar to post by the Azzurri pack and penalised four times in the first 40 minutes on the same ground they will play on this weekend.

It was only tries to Drew Mitchell and Rocky Elsom, the boot of Berrick Barnes and some serious second-half muscling up that earned the win. So Alexander means it when he says a ''massive challenge'' awaits the Wallabies.

15. Berrick Barnes (Australia). Click for more photos

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Paul Cully picks the best XV from the weekend internationals. Photo: AFP

''[There] were heaps of penalties in that first half, they got it back in the game,'' he said. ''They got a penalty, they kicked to the corner and mauled, kicked three points and turned the scoreboard over.

''Every opportunity they get they look to the scrum to give them access to the game and keep them on the front foot.''

So it was just as well the Wallabies pack got their heads together at Twickenham on the weekend, after being caught napping in Paris.

Both props that successfully out-manoeuvred the Australians in 2010, Martin Castrogiovanni and Andrea Lo Cicero Vaina, are a good chance of starting against them again on Saturday. There will be no room for a Paris-esque Wallabies brain snap.

''They like to hold it in and play for those penalties and get the ref into the game, especially with their mauling,'' Alexander said.

''They've got a very tactically clever captain in [No.8 Sergio Parisse] there so they're really going to look to come at us. It's going to be a very tough game, it always is.''

The Brumbies prop, who plays loose-head for his province, was a big contributor to Australia's toughened stance against England. He deflected praise after the game but talked about the confidence a team fed off when the pack was on song.

''It definitely goes a long way, more so than in Super Rugby,'' he said. ''In France two years ago our scrum was not going too well in the first half and in the second half, when the boys sorted that out, we ran away with the game.''

The Wallabies found satisfaction in showing their northern hemisphere critics that the Australian scrum did not deserve its weakling tag.

''We stuck to our guns and really tried to rip into [England] at scrum time,'' Alexander said. ''They look to it as a big confidence booster - when the scrum goes well they all seem to grow a few feet and confidence flows to other parts of the game - so we just really focused on trying to take that away from them and I think we did a decent job.''

There was more talk of jumping off the roller-coaster and backing up the England win with victory this weekend.

''We haven't been consistent enough, we've been having good performances then following up with bad performances and in international rugby you can't afford it,'' Alexander said.

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