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Wallabies: Refs targeting our scrum

Thu, 07 Nov 2013 12:46
Wallaby-scrum2 Ewen-mckenzie-hoodie Ewen-mckenzie-in-stands
It's down to matters of consistent interpretation
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Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie  believes referees are being unfair to his team and should not be penalising their misfiring scrum as often as they do.

McKenzie has not just spat the dummy, but also fired off a lengthy submission to the International Rugby Board, demanding answers for what he claims to be unfair treatment of the Wallaby scrum.

Australian media outlets are reporting that McKenzie's outburst and submission to the IRB is an attempt to change the perception that the Wallaby scrum remains a wobbly set piece that fold like a proverbial deck of cards under pressure.

Most pundits are adamant that Australia's set-remains its biggest Achilles heel, but McKenzie staunchly believes it's continued to be harshly adjudicated by Test officials due to history and perception.

A former tighthead prop, who played 51 Tests, the Wallaby coach was incensed by what he saw as blatant inconsistencies by Irish referee George Clancy in last weekend's 13-20 loss to England.

McKenzie was pleased overall with how his scrum confronted the English, particularly on their own feed, but was flabbergasted they copped seven penalties.

He and scrum coach Andrew Blades, another former Test front row forward, went over each scrum with a fine tooth comb in their analysis and feels they need to tackle the issue head on.

"I know a fair bit about the scrum, more than most, so I know what was going on, and I've made a submission [to the IRB]," McKenzie told a media scrum in Turin ahead of Saturday's clash with Italy.

"I actually thought we did some good stuff out there. The referee didn't think we did some good stuff, but I actually thought we did, so we will address that through the official channels.

"It's down to matters of consistent interpretation.

"I haven't got my mind around the fact you can win your own scrum ball cleanly and you get seven scrum penalties against you and they [England] get none.

"It defies some logic there."

"It's a matter of opinion and the guy in the middle is closer to the action, but I'm just looking to understand that dynamic. We'll find out when they get back to me."

The lowest points of Australia's professional era have always come with poor scrummaging displays, highlighted by the 2005 and 2007 demolitions by England at Twickenham and Marseille, respectively.

The Wallabies have struggled to adapt to the new soft-engagement laws since they were introduced in August and that has significantly contributed to their dreadful 3-8 win-loss record this year.

McKenzie - who has stuck by his front row of James Slipper, Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander - feels his pack has improved throughout the season but is haunted by perception.

"If you're seeing a penalty for one thing and then later in the game seeing the same thing happen on the other side and the penalty still goes against you then you go 'what's going on here?'," he said.

"You clearly have to have a good day at the office but we are actually doing some good things there but we are not getting any reward there."

Against England, the Wallabies did set a stronger platform on their attacking scrums, which had been their main worry as the hooker now has to strike with his foot, disrupting the push.

"The initial communication that I sent has been acknowledged that there was, even on outset, some inconsistencies and they would have to get back to us," McKenzie said.

"Perception definitely comes into it. If you see a penalty for one thing and then later in the game you see the same thing happen from the other side, but the penalty is still against you, you think 'what is going on here'," he said.

"Myself and Bladesy look at things in extraordinary detail and we also know the capabilities of the players we've got. We know what they're like at scrum and we also know what they contribute to the total game.

"Even with [lock Rob Simmons moving to No.6], it will support the scrum and front row, more than detract from it. So we are looking at it from a technical point of view but we have to look at it from an interpretation point of view, because they're things that are frustrating. The technical part has been improving but how we're assessed is the area I'm chasing at the moment."

"I've got to be accountable to the court of public opinion and so does everyone else," he said.

"I get that the whole business is human and that our players are making mistakes, and so is the opposition, so I don't expect a perfect outcome in any game, but I do look at the critical moments where things turn around. If you say nothing, nothing happens. It's more inquisitive than critical, it's more saying could you explain this so we understand."

An IRB spokesman said feedback from coaches was standard.

"The IRB operates a thorough feedback and performance review process for all Test match appointments, which incorporates coach feedback, the referee's performance reviewer feedback and feedback from the match officials themselves," the spokesman said.

"It is a standard process and underscores our continued commitment to clear and consistent officiating."

Sources: Sydney Morning Herald and AAP

* Have a look at the scrum analysis!

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