Thursday’s rugby news has Wallabies scrum issues, aggression at Test training and Smith back for the NZRU.
Ledesma talks up scrum
Wallabies scrum coach Mario Ledesma has said that the team will be out to change perceptions of their vulnerable scrum in the upcoming World Cup. “We have to put the scrum in the place it deserves and that is being a really important part of rugby, if not, we will be playing rugby league,” he said.
Ladesma, formerly the scrum coach at the Waratahs, has seen some growth in the Wallabies set-piece already. While the Australian scrum was shaky during the Rugby Championship openers against South Africa and Argentina, the squad stood up well against the All Blacks in the final win in Sydney.
Sio gives front row support
Ledesma has also underplayed the concern at Australia’s 31-man squad containing just skipper Stephen Moore and Tatafu Polota-Nau as specialist hookers, saying Argentina did the same in the four Rugby World Cups he played in.
Ledesma said that he has been training one of the five props in the squad to support the hooker position, presumed to be Scott Sio. “If we have an injury that lasts only one week, we’ll make the prop play,” he said. “If it lasts longer, we just have to get the other hooker [James Hanson from the train-on squad] who has been training with us every day.”
Biff at Wallabies training
Wallabies second rowers Will Skelton and Kane Douglas were involved in a dust-up during Wednesday’s training, requiring both to head to the sidelines while the team ran an opposed driving maul training. But coach Michael Cheika looked to be delighted by the physicality and the aggression of the Wallabies forwards.
“That’s something Cheika really likes, not only in the scrum sessions or the driving mauls, but every training is really intense,” Ledesma said. “[There] is this change in mindset of the whole team and getting the forwards to work even harder.” The Wallabies depart from Sydney on Saturday to play the US Eagles before heading to England for the World Cup.
Smith re-signs for NZ
Half-back Aaron Smith has committed to New Zealand rugby through to the 2019 World Cup, saying he has plenty more to achieve for the All Blacks and for Super Rugby champions the Highlanders. Smith has become an integral part of the All Blacks fast-paced style in 41 Tests since making his debut against Ireland in June 2012.
“Since I have known Aaron, he has blossomed into one of the best halfbacks I have seen,” Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said. “You know players like that don’t come along that often.” Smith joins All Blacks teammates Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles on four-year New Zealand Rugby deals.