Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Brumbies' resurgent scrum threatens fresh Blues' woes

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

The Blues are about to face an Australian side for the first time this season and the Brumbies' resurgent scrum, which has reaped two penalty tries in as many weeks, could pose a new set of problems.

Blues forwards coach Mick Byrne has said each of the Sanzar countries have adapted to the new and controversial scrum interpretations in their own ways. His team's set piece was good in the 30-12 victory over the Highlanders at Eden Park at the weekend after it was dealt to by the Bulls, Lions and, to a lesser extent the Cheetahs, over successive weeks, but Byrne's men will enter the unknown at Canberra Stadium tomorrow night.

New Zealand scrums are traditionally more dominant than their Australian counterparts but often fail to press that advantage, while the men from across the Ditch are experts at creating shifting, unstable platforms.

But the Brumbies' strong performances in this area in recent weeks will have caught the Blues' attention. The Australian conference leaders lost 32-24 to the Rebels in Melbourne at the weekend but scored a second-half penalty try, just as they did a week earlier at home against the Stormers.

With a 67 per cent success rate, the Blues still have the worst scrum.

However, Brumbies prop Ben Alexander said in Tony Woodcock, Tom McCartney and Charlie Faumuina the Blues had one of the competition's best front rows and the Brumbies had had their own problems.

"It means nothing what we've achieved the last couple of weeks. We've still had some really bad scrums," Alexander said.

"If you want to talk about consistency, [Woodcock's] been consistent over a long time and the scrum laws have changed a lot over that time.

"Obviously this year has been probably the biggest change, but every year there has been a bind or different change and the bloke just gets on with it and adjusts."

Alexander conceded the new laws had probably helped the Brumbies, though. "The hit's been taken out of it. I don't think we were really ever trying to get a big hit.

"So maybe that's benefited us."

Australian Rohan Hoffmann, who before last weekend's round was second only to Jaco Peyper among the referees to have re-set the most scrums this season, will take charge.

Elsewhere, the Blues will have targeted fullback Jesse Mogg and the midfield of Pat McCabe and Tevita Kuridrani as major threats.

Mogg is second equal behind Israel Folau as the competition's top try-scorer. Waratahs fullback Folau, who didn't play in his team's defeat to the Sharks due to a throat injury, is on eight tries, with Mogg and teammate wing Robbie Coleman on five.

Second-five McCabe, who has overcome two serious neck injuries, is in the form of his life. Kuridrani, impressive for the Wallabies, is a very hard running centre.

- APNZ

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