ALTHOUGH relieved to enjoy a rare series whitewash, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is concerned his captain David Pocock is being unfairly targeted off the ball, while the Australian scrum is again on roller skates.
The Wallabies return to Super Rugby mode this week after finishing off Wales with a spirited but far from conclusive 20-19 victory at Allianz Stadium in the third Test on Saturday and will not refocus on international football for almost two months.
Until the start of the inaugural Rugby Championship in late August, Deans, who is happy that his squad now know how to win the tight Tests, will be mulling over several nagging dilemmas. The most glaring concern was the lack of stability in the Wallabies' scrum, especially in the second half, but another problem was how Wales successfully mishandled Pocock off the ball, forcing him out of the play on several occasions.
Pocock discovered that Wales had found a different way to keep him in check. In open play, he was held back by Welsh forwards or deliberately obstructed, while on one occasion was placed in a headlock, shortly after the ball had left the breakdown, which gave him no chance to get to the next tackle area. This happened on at least three or four occasions. Deans is concerned that if not policed properly other teams will try similar tactics to stifle his standout openside breakaway.
''He's been taken out of the play a lot after the ball has left the area. There is a sense of frustration about that because as nothing has been done about it, it encourages teams to keep doing it,'' Deans said yesterday.
The Welsh tactic didn't exactly quieten Pocock because in yet another excellent captain's performance he vied with Wallabies five-eighth Berrick Barnes and No.8 Wycliff Palu for man-of-the-match honours. There is logic in why Wales would do anything to keep Pocock in check because when he had any freedom in the Test he was devastating at the breakdown, winning possession, and he was one of Australia's most pugnacious tacklers.
Deans was also pleased that while ''there was a lot happening off the ball, they [the Wallabies] didn't react.''
This helped to put in check an already overflowing penalty count.
Still the Wallabies' biggest area of instability was in the scrum. After making advances earlier in the year, the Wallabies front row found themselves under enormous pressure, as Welsh tight-head Adam Jones destabilised his opposite, Benn Robinson. Referee Craig Joubert penalised the Wallabies' pack four times, while also giving the Welsh three free kicks for a home-town scrummaging indiscretion.
Deans described the team's set-piece as ''dysfunctional''.
''The greatest source of frustration was the first free kick in the game. That was something we've trained for, talked about, but we came up short. And off the back of that it not only lets the referee in, but it also produces hesitation. Then you lose the next hit and all of a sudden you're under the pump. It was disappointing to start the game with a free kick, a decision which was justified,'' Deans said.
''When you consider how dysfunctional our set-piece was, it was a very good effort to win the game.''
Elsewhere, Deans was delighted, in particular, how the squad had matured after the disaster of losing to Scotland in Newcastle.
''It's been particularly rewarding watching this group grow in their ability to actually work their way through those occasions when it gets difficult,'' Deans said.