Rugby: Are England and Australia 'cheating' in scrums? How both sides have come under fire

Wallabies captain Stephen Moore speaks to referee Nigel Owens. Photo / Getty Images
Wallabies captain Stephen Moore speaks to referee Nigel Owens. Photo / Getty Images

England's final Test of 2016 sees them face Australia this Saturday, but the build-up to the Twickenham clash has been dominated by a war-of-words between Red Rose coach Eddie Jones and his opposite number Michael Cheika.

The focus? The scrum. Both Jones and Cheika believe their opposition scrummage illegally and haven't been afraid to say so in a series of verbal barbs which have only served to heighten the anticipation for a game which is always brutally competitive.

In what has been an exchange of claim and counter claim, the two Australian coaches haven't held back. But what is the detail of what has been said? Is there any truth in the arguments being put forward? And are both teams cheating?

Here, Sportsmail takes a detailed look at what's going on...

What has Eddie Jones said?

Born in Tasmania and a former Australia coach, facing the country of his birth is always a big deal for Jones.

A favourite with the media because of his forthright views, Jones has been at his hard-hitting best this week as he raises the stakes for England's meeting with the Wallabies.

Barely minutes after the full time whistle had gone in the win over Argentina, Jones was already on the attack suggesting he needed to meet with this weekend's referee Jaco Peyper to discuss 'issues' with Australia's set-piece.

'I am sure they are going to be at that again, so we have got to be prepared and I am very keen to have a chat to the referee about the Australian scrummaging,' Jones said.
They were penalised four times in a row against France so they have got some technical issues

'They have got some issues with the way they scrum so we need to have a meeting with the referee and we will invite the Australian coaching staff to come along.

'We will submit an agenda and make sure everything is above board. They were penalised four times in a row against France so they have got some technical issues.'

While focusing on the scrum, Jones also risked the ire of Cheika by arguing Argentina and not Australia were the second-best side behind New Zealand in the recent Rugby Championship.

Is their truth in his claims?

Australia's scrum was in all sorts of trouble against France as they somehow managed to defy set-piece problems to claim a narrow 25-23 victory.

The Wallabies lost all 10 scrums against Les Bleus - albeit with a much changed front row - as they were blown away up front. In that regard then, Jones is right to say the men in green and gold have technical issues.

The final few minutes of the game in Paris provided a good example.

With the clock having ticked past the 80 minute mark, a series of reset scrums saw replacement Australian loosehead Scott Sio repeatedly slip his bind and fall to the floor. By the letter of the law that should have been a penalty to the home side.

The images below show replacement Sio going to ground, referee Glen Jackson somehow failing to spot the pressure he was under.

The loosehead also had trouble against England in the summer, seeing yellow and being dropped for the second Test.

Jones and England will know that and will hope to do the same again at HQ this weekend.

What has Michael Cheika said?

During his side's 3-0 defeat by England in the summer, Cheika stayed relatively quiet as his team came under fire on the pitch.

This time, though, he's hit back at Jones and in some style. After England's coach went on the front foot, Cheika responded by suggesting England tighthead Dan Cole has spent his entire career scrummaging illegally. The Leicester man, Cheika maintains, doesn't scrum straight and gives his team a subsequent advantage.

'He (Jones) wants to talk about our scrum because we're cheating in the scrum,' Cheika said. 'He has to look at his own players because they're the ones who got the penalty try and had a prop with a yellow card.

'That same prop (Cole) has been infringing the law since his career started probably. Cole has been boring in and falling down all of June, in the series we played against them, and all the others. That's his tactic.
We scrum square. It is very obvious from the clips. If you want to watch them instead of the all vitriol, they will tell you the story

'If you want to watch the clips, they tell the story. In the summer, Cole's experience of turning in and pulling down got the better of Scotty Sio and James Slipper and they could not deal with it.

'We scrum square. It is very obvious from the clips. If you want to watch them instead of the all vitriol, they will tell you the story.

'Once again it will be up to the referee as to who he believes. If he wants to be influenced by the other chap that we are the ones scrummaging illegally when they are the guys who had the yellow card against them then it is really up to him.'

So, is Dan Cole cheating at scrum time?

Cole was yellow carded against Argentina as the England scrum came under pressure from the Pumas at Twickenham last weekend. On the verge of half time, Argentina had England under the pump and after a series of infringements, Cole faced the music as he was sent to the sin bin.

The dark arts of the scrum mean interpretations of the various laws can vary from game to game and from referee to referee. That said, there is evidence to suggest Cole has previous for failing to scrummage straight. Australia's argument is that the 29-year-old 'bores in' on the opposition hooker, his angle of drive heading for the inside shoulder of his opposite man. That is against the laws of the game.

As the images below show, Cole is guilty of that at times but to say he cheats on a regular basis would be an exaggeration.

The other issue aimed at the Leicester man is his binding.

At scrum time props are expected to bind by gripping their opposite man's body. The Wallabies believe he occasionally binds on the arm or shoulder, forcing him to collapse and earn a penalty in England's favour. Again, this is illegal.

Cheika believes Cole has been doing this all of his career. That comment is likely to have been made with his tongue firmly in cheek as while his technique can be questioned at times, it would be wrong to say things are that simple.

What happened in the summer when the two sides met three times in Australia?

England whitewashed Australia in June, claiming what was a thoroughly impressive and deserved 3-0 victory. Having not had much luck there in recent years, the result certainly added another layer of prestige to Jones' Red Rose reign.

The three-match series, though, also saw plenty of debate about the scrum.

World Cup-winning coach Bob Dwyer and former Wallaby Phil Kearns both questioned England's scrum - and Cole in particular - after the visitors' first Test win.

In that game, England blitzed the Australian scrum as Sio was yellow carded and the Wallabies were penalised seven more times at the set-piece than their opposition.

'How anyone could have allowed Dan Cole to scrummage the way he did was absolutely beyond me,' Dwyer said.

Joe Marler responded to Dwyer by calling him a 'w*****' on social media while Jones claimed his team were being hit by an 'organised campaign' in the Australian press.

It all provided a constant sideshow to the series, with the debate once again rearing its head as the two teams prepare to meet once more.

And who has the historical upper hand?

Australia have had real trouble at scrum time over the course of the last five years and more. The Wallabies, in fairness, have improved in that area in recent years with Cheika bringing in former Argentine front rower Mario Ledesma as scrum doctor.

The ex-hooker has had a big impact, but there is work still to be done.

England have had the better of the Wallabies in the pack in the majority of their most recent meetings with some famous examples from down the years showing that to be the case.

In 2005 former England scrum machine Andrew Sheridan put Australia to the sword, his power and technique sending opposition props Al Baxter and Matt Dunning from the field with their tails between their legs, the latter suffering a neck injury.

Sheridan repeated that performance in the team's 2007 World Cup quarter-final in Marseille, his dominance at the set-piece helping what was a poor England side to victory through Jonny Wilkinson's boot.

If Cole can repeat Sheridan's performance, then England are likely to come out on top this weekend, finish the year unbeaten, and extend their winning streak to 13 under Jones.

It should be some game and if the build-up is anything to go by, the scrum and both sets of front-row forwards will play a massive part.

- Daily Mail

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