Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has warned England against living on past glories as Australia seized the psychological ascendancy in an intriguing build-up to Saturday’s much-hyped Cook Cup clash at Twickenham, London.
As new England coach Martin Johnson restored former captain Phil Vickery to his front row in an obvious, and perhaps desperate, attempt to intimidate Australia, Deans turned the tables on the hosts when he revealed the Wallabies would target the scrum as an unlikely area to gain an edge.
Such tactics would have been unthinkable for Wallabies of the recent past, but Deans believes that, having already matched the All Blacks and Springboks up front this year, his rebuilt pack is ready to shatter England’s sense of invincibility at the set piece.
The England forwards have destroyed Australia in their two most recent northern-hemisphere encounters, at Twickenham in 2005 and in the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, and Johnson’s recall of Vickery alongside fellow Wallabies tormenter Andy Sheridan suggests they are hoping to do so once again.
But displaying a quiet resolve, if not scant disregard for England’s past dominance, Deans promised the Australian scrum would be up for the challenge this time around.
“The scrum has been a good launching pad for us and obviously we’re hopeful that will be the case on the weekend,” the first-year Wallabies coach said.
“One thing I have noticed in my role is the amount of reference there is to the past. And the great thing about this game is the past has no bearing.
“It’s what happens on the weekend. And the one thing I would say about these blokes in terms of the way they’re playing now – if I could out it in a sentence – is that these guys have done their apprenticeship.”
In a blow to British reporters – and possibly the England team also – who continue to bombard the tourists with questions about the Wallabies scrum ad nauseam, Deans said Australia had only placed “a typical emphasis” on the set piece in their preparation this week.
“We haven’t adjusted the proportions at all,” he said.
Deans has clearly grown tired of repeated references to Australia’s 2005 and 2007 submissions to the old enemy and warned payback might be imminent if the English presumed further successes.
“What happens is your next opponent tends to get more excited about tipping you over,” he said.
“So the bar keeps being raised and the key is to stay with it. Because the moment you park up and presume anything, it bites you.
“You can’t presume anything in this game, so that’s what makes it so good.”
Not one to look back, Deans said it was high time the English realised the events of Marseille 2007 were no longer relevant.
“There’s been a lot of references to Marseille, but I understand from hearsay that there’s four players in the starting XV for England (backing up) and I understand there’s five in the Wallabies,” he said.
“So I think there’s your answer in terms of background “
The coach’s confidence has obviously rubbed off on Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock, who said he had no plans to use last year’s painful loss to motivate his players on Saturday.
“Personally, I always have fond memories of great wins and obviously not so fond memories of defeats. That’s the way it is, that’s sport,” Mortlock said.
“So we’ll be totally focused on what we’re looking to achieve and that’ll be pretty much be where I’ll draw all my inspiration from. Nothing from Marseille.”