Auckland - Australia are reaping the benefits of pre-World Cup scrum camps and their front row are ready to meet fire with fire in their tournament opener against Italy, prop Ben Alexander said on Wednesday.
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While boasting an exciting backline featuring creative halfbacks Quade Cooper and Will Genia, the Tri-Nations champions have always been criticised for their lack of strength in the front row.
Four years ago, they were bullied out of the World Cup by England in the quarter-finals and on Sunday, in their Pool C match at North Harbour Stadium in Albany, they are sure to receive a rough examination from a beefy Italian pack, who are notoriously strong scrummagers.
"We have totally got great faith in how we scrummage," Alexander told reporters at the team's hotel in Auckland on Wednesday.
"We want to be the best team in the world and the best team need the best pack and that's all we need to spur us on.
"We want to go out there, we want to do the job so we get the win and that's it. Obviously the criticisms hurt you when you first start hearing them but it doesn't bother us anymore. We move on."
Alexander's confidence follows a series of scrum camps with former Argentina and Australian prop Patricio Noriega, now the Wallabies scrum coach.
"It was just good for the blokes who weren't playing (Super Rugby) finals to keep their scrum volume up, so we were ready to hit the ground running," Alexander said of the scrum camps.
"We had a real technical emphasis on that because we had a lot of downtime to... worry about scrums.
"It is hard when you are in a team environment where you have to do lineouts, restarts and breakdowns to dedicate a large time to scrums because it detracts from other parts of your game.
"So during those scrum camps it was great, two hour sessions a day."
The last time Australia met Italy was in November in Florence when the Wallabies ran out 32-14 winners, but only after being thoroughly dominated in the scrums.
Alexander and hooker Stephen Moore both started that match and the Brumbies prop, who will be joined by loosehead Sekope Kepu in the front row for Sunday's game, was wary of the Azzurri enjoying similar domination.
"Obviously their scrummaging is very good, their mauling is very good and just all the forward encounters are very good," Alexander said.
"If they win those areas it flows on the rest of their game so that's the areas we've been focussing on and looking to nullify.
"We just need to front up physically. They are a physical side the Italians and if you want to beat fire you have to meet it with fire, so we are very focused on the physical side of things for this Sunday."