Rugby Union


Wallabies play switcheroo to lend scrum added push

WALLABIES forwards coach Andrew Blades says front row versatility will help the Australian scrum adjust to short turnarounds in next week's opening Tests against Scotland and Wales.

Blades says changes made to replacement rules since his playing days have nullified the importance of having specialists in the tight-head and loose-head positions, and flexibility can help take the Australian scrum forward.

In last year's World Cup, Wallabies props Sekope Kepu and Ben Alexander played on the opposite sides of the scrum to where they play at provincial level - and Blades says the concept of switching certain players around up front to best suit the side is likely to continue.

''We're really lucky we have a number of guys who adapt well to both sides,'' he said. ''We've got Keps [Kepu] who is adept at playing both sides, Benny Alexander [who moves to tight-head for the Brumbies clash with Melbourne] adept at playing both sides … and Slips [James Slipper] can also play both sides.

''It's helpful because of the nature of the season. If you get lots of one-sided props in a total squad you find it difficult to adapt. We could potentially go into a Test with one specialist and two guys who can play both sides and we get great coverage.''

With just days between the weekend's Super Rugby matches, the Tuesday Test against Scotland and Saturday week's match against Wales - Blades says the coaching staff have looked at a variety of methods to best prepare the pack.


The bottom line is they're keeping things simple. Experienced players are likely to be relied upon in the Scotland game to help with adjusting to calls at the set-piece, and video tutorials have been used to bring players not participating in training up to speed.

Meanwhile, NRL converts Cooper Vuna and Joe Tomane will face off in Super Rugby action on Friday night in what shapes as a Wallabies wing-spot duel for the Test against Scotland.

Melbourne flyer Vuna and Brumbies revelation Tomane practised together with the Wallabies train-on squad on Wednesday, but in a mouth-watering match-up, they'll go head-to-head at AAMI Park on Friday with a gold jersey potentially on the line.

Vuna and Tomane get one final chance to convince Robbie Deans that they're ready to become the latest in a long line of league converts to play out wide for the Wallabies.

Vuna says he's approaching Friday's match as a Test selection trial, and he won't be leaving anything in reserve when he clashes with Tomane. ''It's pretty much a showcase, I guess,'' he said.