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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
Greg Growden
Greg Growden | Columnist Index
After more than 30 years with The Sydney Morning Herald and Fairfax Media in Australia, Greg Growden now writes exclusively online for ESPNscrum. Never afraid to step on toes, you can expect plenty of compelling insight from one of Australia's most renowned rugby writers.
Greg Growden writes ...
Scrum simply unable to provide proper platform
Greg Growden
November 4, 2013
Quade Cooper and Australia's backs cannot perform while the pack permanently goes backwards © Getty Images
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KPIs: How we rate the Wallabies

  • Result: An embarrassment. Grand Slam talk (silly to be pushed by ARU officials before the tour) now just hot air.
  • Scrum: Diabolical. A penalty fest for England.
  • Defence: Slightly better than usual, but remains clumsy at important moments.
  • Combinations: Okay in the backs. Quade Cooper and Matt Toomua (Australia's two best players) look good, but up front, oh no! Off the pace.
  • Attacking mojo: Too much shuffle ball to the sidelines, and Israel Folau must learn to pass.
  • Overall mark: Four-and-a-half out of 10. (Dismal Failure).
  • Greg Growden's original KPIs

Several dubious refereeing decisions have given the Wallabies the chance to look for scapegoats for their 20-13 loss to England, which abruptly ended their unrealistic Grand Slam aspirations. But in the end only the Wallabies themselves deserve blame. George Clancy and his assistants weren't kind to the Wallabies, but it must not camouflage the fact that the visitors floundered at Twickenham, doing all they could to lose a Test they should have won.

This was a weak England team, which in the first half had no comprehension of what was required to be an attacking threat, while their forwards seemed to be just going through the motions. It was a team lacking vital parts, and it showed - especially with their No.10, Owen Farrell, doing more for the green and gold than for the red rose before the break.

The Wallabies failed to take advantage of their opponent's many inadequacies - allowing themselves to play to a similar rhythm - and they wasted numerous opportunities to put them away in the first half. Then again what hope have you got when your scrum-half is so off his game that he was lucky not to be hooked at least 20 minutes earlier; your captain lacked any presence; and your scrum was, as usual, a complete mess.

 
Mowen had no impact on this Test, and he is still struggling to convince those outside the Brumbies cocoon that he is an international No.8.
 

Nonetheless the Wallabies had enough possession, enough time in important attacking positions, to get themselves out of the mire. But they lacked the intelligence, the plan and the confidence to finish it off, just like any team that has lost the knack of winning; and when you are relying on players woefully out of form, nothing of value gets finished off.

Yet the main problem remains the scrum. Before the Test, we heard the customary media babble from the Wallabies about how they held an upfront advantage over England because they were more accustomed to the new engagement routine. Wrongly believing that nothing more than a fair-to-middling performance against the All Blacks in Dunedin allowed them to pump up their own tyres, those stupid comments only provoked a sleeping monster.

The Wallabies are masters of talking themselves up, but when the big moment arrives, you discover their talk is so, so cheap.

England came from behind too defeat Australia at Twickenham (video available only in Australia)

In the first half, a scrum set was basically an excuse for an England penalty as Clancy time after time found fault in the Wallabies' engagement, their hit, their alignment, their inability to hold on with back-rowers nabbed peeking a look and forgetting to push.

The Wallabies will no doubt again go on about how they are judged unfairly by the northern hemisphere adjudicators. But the plain, simple fact is that this Australian scrum is not good enough to provide a proper platform for their attack. The Wallabies are unable to repeatedly keep their shape up front so they must resort to rushed and scrambled football, which plays into the hands of ruthless, effective opponents such as New Zealand and South Africa, and offers parity to considerably weaker sides such as England. Australia will remain No.4, No.5 or even No,6 in the world (how horrible does that sound) when their scrum lacks a Rat Pack element.

Leadership also remains a serious problem.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie made the right move taking the captaincy off James Horwill, with only the injury to Rob Simmons seeing "Big Kev" avoid the embarrassment of being dropped entirely from the starting line-up. Horwill played a little better at Twickenham, but he is still someone a considerable way from his best. And his captaincy replacement, Ben Mowen, failed to seize the moment. Mowen had no impact on this Test, and he is still struggling to convince those outside the Brumbies cocoon that he is an international No.8. And when the captain becomes the invisible man, sighted only when giving away unnecessary penalties, you cannot expect a side to play at a constructive level.

So who should be captain?

Maybe it's time to just give it to Wally, the stuffed wallaby mascot that sits on halfway in every tour Test. He is, after all, the only one in the touring party who never makes a mistake and holds his ground.

Most importantly Wally is unable to make dumb remarks.

Will Genia was poor behind the struggling pack © Getty Images
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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Join the conversation with Greg on Twitter @GregGrowden

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