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Australia's rolling maul a major threat

2015-09-29 20:41
Michael Cheika (Getty Images)

London - If there was one area of the game England thought they would have to be particularly wary of when they were drawn in the same Rugby World Cup pool as Australia, it was probably not the rolling maul.

While world-class Wallabies backs are always expected, a tactic that requires a rock-solid lineout and a powerful forward drive is not the sort of attacking threat Australia have offered for a good few years.

Two tries from David Pocock off the catch-and-drive in Australia's opener against Fiji and another from Sean McMahon in the rout of Uruguay might, however, have focused the mind of coach Stuart Lancaster ahead of Saturday's Twickenham clash.

The Australian maul also proved effective in the victory over the All Blacks in August but, as coach Michael Cheika conceded after the Fiji win, it was born at the ACT Brumbies under Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham.

"Larkham's going to claim it's his for sure even though we try to keep him away from the forwards when we're training," he joked after the Fiji victory.

"It's been an excellent weapon for the Brumbies this season and they've got some very skilful players in that area and there's a few of them in the pack and they've been leading our team in building a better maul on both sides of the ball."

Pocock scored two hat-tricks and eight tries in total, almost all off the back of the maul, for the Canberra-based outfit this season but, interestingly, they failed to get it moving against Cheika's New South Wales Waratahs.

It is clearly an area Cheika has given a great deal of thought to after his pack were frequently exposed by Northern Hemisphere forwards in his first tour as Wallabies coach last November.

"One thing about all these things -- mauls, scrums and lineouts all the tight stuff -- they're the most humbling part of the game because you can do really well on one scrum or maul and you get turned on the next one and you're left with your pants down," Cheika added.

"It's not probably what Australians are known for in their footy, but we have to continue to improve in that area so we can repel teams that are going to attack us there and we can use it as well."

Unfortunately for Cheika, one of the key factors in stopping the Brumbies maul, and that of Uruguay last Sunday, was the upper-body strength of lock Will Skelton, who has been ruled out of the World Cup with a pectoral injury.

"It's his first World Cup, so it's a real shame because he was having a really good impact," Cheika told reporters on Tuesday.

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