By Nick Mulvenney
TOKYO (Reuters) – Australia prop Scott Sio said the Wallabies pack would be ready to scrum for 80 minutes when they face England in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in Oita on Saturday.
England monstered Australia at the scrum in the 2007 quarter-finals, with the Wallabies taking their revenge in the 2015 pool match which sent the hosts crashing out of their own tournament.
Scrummaging is in the DNA of English rugby, however, and Sio knows the Australian forwards will have to be prepared for another mighty scrap at the weekend.
“If we have to scrum every minute of the 80 minutes, we’re ready to do that as well,” loosehead Sio told reporters.
“It’s just being prepared for any situation that comes in there, but once you know the ball is knocked on it’s ready to go, it’s about connecting, getting the right messages to the forward pack and then providing a solid base there for our backs.”
The Wallabies knocked the ball on more than they would have liked in slippery conditions in their final pool match but dominated the vaunted Georgian scrum in the set piece.
Georgia’s captain said after the match that the Wallabies now had one of the best scrums in the world and the England camp have been sending out the message this week that the days when the Australians could be shoved around the park were gone.
How much of that is gamesmanship remains to be seen but Sio said the set scrum had a nasty way of bringing front-rowers back down to earth if they ever got overconfident.
“It’s a day-by-day, scrum-by-scrum,” he added.
“It’s such a humbling part of the game where you can be on top one scrum and the very next scrum you can be penalised and be shoved back five metres.
“It’s just trusting in each other, we understand scrummaging is as an eight, it’s not just the guys up front … we understand as a group if we’re all firing together, that’s what I believe makes a successful scrum.”
Sio, who turned 28 on Wednesday, was given his first name because he was born while his father was in Edinburgh with the Western Samoa squad preparing to play Scotland in the quarter-finals of the 1991 World Cup.
He made his own World Cup debut in 2015 and has been pretty much first choice loosehead ever since, despite coach Michael Cheika frequently spinning the selection wheel in other parts of the team.
With his ACT Brumbies team mate Allan Alaalatoa at tighthead and Tolu Latu at hooker, Australia have as settled a front row as they have had since 2015.
“The combination needs to foster by spending enough time to get enough repetition together and we’ve built well so far,” Sio said.
“But we know we have to go up another level this week.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)