Australia intend to utilise the set-piece prowess of the franchise
The Brumbies powering the Wallabies pack
There are, count ‘em: 12 Brumbies in the Wallabies squad to face England on Saturday. And within that there is something of an ACT accent to the pack, as half the unit are from the franchise, including the two locks chosen, Cadeyrn Neville and Darcy Swain.
Which has pulled a lot of the chat about this one into the maul.
“The line-out and maul is a massive part of the game now and you don’t have a genuine threat up front it’s pretty easy to defend beyond,” said Wallabies boss Dave Rennie on his selection. “If you’ve got a good maul, teams have to spend a bit of time working out how they’re going to defend that and they’re going to have to use some bodies to do it, which creates opportunities elsewhere.
“It’s an area that we feel that if we can overshadow England, then it gives us an opportunity to get our game going and put a bit of heat on the right end of the field. The Brumbies were clearly our best performing side, but we’re picking individuals and we’re really happy with the group.”
So we caught up with Wallabies forwards coach Laurie Fisher to ask him about the Brumbies maul and what England fans can expect.
The long-serving coach tells Rugby World: “The Brumbies have always been a strong set-piece side. Certainly our lineout, lineout defence, scrum, maul and maul defence. So we’ve been trying to build our consistency around our set-piece proficient and a strong maul over a number of years now.
“Probably since 2013 or so, we’ve really tried to say: ‘We’re going to concentrate on set-piece, we’re going to be good at that. That’ll make us competitive in every game. And then a good basis from there.’ So this year has been no different.
“We probably didn’t maul as well as we’d have liked through the middle part of the season, but I think it became a real strength again at the back-end, in the trans-Tasman games. Particularly getting Cadeyrn Neville back, who missed a lot of the mid part of the season, getting a little bit of a fine-tuning around our strategy was most important for us.”
And is there a Brumbies identity, when it comes to this facet of the game?
“I probably probably don’t want to give too much away! The basis of it is ‘tight, low, long,’ and then winning the first three seconds – you land strong and go forward. Then there’s a little bit to the back-end of our maul that people could look at and try to work out. We do a lot of work on it and there’s not a week goes by that we don’t attend to are maul and maul defence to a reasonably strong capacity.”
The jump-out selection for this one is of 33-year-old debutant Neville, who could play a major role in the set-piece. He is someone Wallabies boss Rennie has discussed, and Fisher reiterates some of the big man’s strengths.
As he explains: “The set-piece is his major are of proficiency.
He’s a big man who hits the scales at about 124, 125kg, but he’s in good condition as a tighthead scrummaging lock, as a guy that is 203cm he gets up off the ground. He’s a good athlete.
“And he’s got a real appetite for maul and maul defence. He’s built his game around that. Like, he’s not a particularly skilful attacking player, he doesn’t have a lot of footwork, he doesn’t have a lot of skill in his hands. He’s a good defender. He’s got a big wingspan. He takes up a lot of space, so he’s hard to get around. But he’s really developed a reputation in the three years with us, as a guy that can contribute on both sides of the maul.”
The first showdown in Perth is expected to be a physical confrontation and Australia have selected accordingly.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.