BATH, England -- Did current Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham miss his calling? Was he wasted at fly-half at Test level when he should have been marshalling the forwards or, more specifically, the maul?
It's hard not to at least ponder those questions following the success his Brumbies enjoyed on the drive during the Super Rugby season. And now, at the Rugby World Cup, that same blueprint has already yielded success for the Wallabies.
"Well Larkham's going to claim it's his for sure, you know what I mean? We try not to let him near the forwards when we're training," Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika said with a chuckle when asked who would be taking the credit for David Pocock's two tries in the 28-13 win over Fiji.
"But obviously it's been an excellent weapon for the Brumbies over this current Super Rugby season and they've got some very skilful players in that area, and there's a few of them in the (Wallabies) pack. And they've been leading our team in building a better maul -- on both sides of the ball -- not just the attacking one but the defensive one, too.
"And we had to resist a couple of mauls where we were very heavily outnumbered, Fiji packed five or six guys, extra backs et cetera, into the mauls to try and drive them over and we resisted. And so we've been working hard on that because we know both that and the scrums, the lineouts, are going to be very important as we move on in the tournament."
Pocock's two tries were executed almost perfectly by the Wallabies pack in Cardiff, allowing the former captain to bag a brace few would have predicted. But looking back to the Super Rugby season, the Brumbies possessed a maul few others from the competition could match; the drive so good Pocock scored a hat-trick against both the Highlanders and Force as part of an eight-try season.
But it hasn't been as simple as replicating that exact set-up at the Wallabies, as back-rower Scott Fardy told ESPN at the Wallabies' recovery session in Bath on Thursday.
"Yeah we did have success at the Brumbies and it's something that we've brought into the Wallabies," he said. "But it's just the amount of buy-in from all the other guys and how keen they are to learn new things in that area of the game.
"And we realise how important it is in this tournament; you've seen a lot of tries from that area of the game; a lot of exits from that area of the game. So just across the board the guys are really into it and understand how important it is now and it's something probably that the Australian team hasn't had for a while, and we want to really make sure we have a good one."
While Pocock's double captured the headlines, his combination with breakdown ally Michael Hooper also drew praise from Cheika at the post-match media conference. The stocky openside was rocked by a couple of huge hits early on in Cardiff, but just as it was when he endured a Ben Tameifuna bell-ringer in New Plymouth last year, the vice-captain just shook the tackles off to put in a busy performance.
"We realise how important it is in this tournament; you've seen a lot of tries from that area of the game" Scott Fardy
Hooper, too, alluded to the Brumbies' maul blueprint but the breakaway also singled out former Pumas front-rower and now Wallabies scrum coach Mario Ledesma for helping implement the successful tactic.
"Well we've got a whole different range of thinking," Hooper said. "We've got three different forwards coaches, three different ideologies there coming in, so it's a big melting pot of ideas. The Brumbies certainly had a good maul in the Super Rugby season so we're taking a bit from that but we're also taking a bit from other places like Mario Ledesma and spaces like that which showed with two nice tries there."