Rugby: Scrum consistency crucial for Wallaby wins, Slipper

By Ben Horne

James Slipper is renowned for his work rate and speed across the ground, but the Wallabies prop admits his career will be defined by his consistency at scrum time.

Australia struggled to match South Africa and New Zealand at the set piece throughout the Rugby Championship, but the forwards have a chance to prove they've made progress in Saturday night's dead rubber Bledisloe Cup clash with the All Blacks in Dunedin.

Slipper, 24, has been earmarked as the future of the Wallabies front row.

He's a favourite of coach Ewen McKenzie, because his pace, power and workhorse qualities give the Wallabies the equivalent of a fourth backrower at the breakdown.

Most of the Queenslander's 43 test matches have been played from the bench, but Slipper has started every game since the Lions series finished and McKenzie took over as coach.

He believes the Wallabies' scrum is improving, but concedes it's an area he and his front row partners must perfect if Australia are going to re-assert themselves as a heavyweight contender.

"As we all know, scrummaging is the No1 priority job for a front-rower," Slipper said.

"I do feel like our scrum is an improvement throughout the year and for me personally, I feel like I'm getting through a lot of work around the field. But obviously scrums and the set piece is my first job.

"I still feel like I'm at the start of my career. This year has been great to have an opportunity to start a few games. I'm pretty happy with my form."

Slipper said that rugby's new scrum laws took time to adjust to - and that the Wallabies' pack will need to be on top of their game, with the changes to binding likely to suit the Northern Hemisphere teams.

McKenzie has called for greater consistency across the board, but the coach has put a particular emphasis on aiming up at scrum time.

"Set piece in international rugby is vital for winning the games so Link [McKenzie] has emphasised set piece needs to be consistent and be the platform we work off and score points from," Slipper said.

"We've been working hard on it over the last two months on scrums and lineouts - it's a real test this weekend against the All Blacks."

When McKenzie took the reins from Robbie Deans, there was an immediate expectation that results would come.

However, Slipper said the team were realistic that things might not go to plan and believes the only way is up leading into the spring tour of the UK and Europe.

"In the back of your head you do think it might take a bit of time bringing a different way of playing for the Wallabies. But we had every intention of winning those games straight away, it just wasn't to be," he said.

Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia have been ruled out of Saturday's test with hamstring soreness.

The wingers join goalkicking center Christian Lealiifano (ankle) and flanker Scott Fardy (eye) on the injury list.

Tomane and Feauai-Sautia had "hamstring awareness issues" and wouldn't risk aggravating the problems before departing next week on the five-test tour of Europe.

- AAP

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