World Cup-winning Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer has shone the spotlight on England’s scrum tactics, suggesting Joe Marler has been getting away with illegal scrummaging for years.
The scrum has been singled out as the most important part of Saturday’s must-win match – with England on the verge of becoming the first home nation to fail to reach the knock-out stages, while Australia would also be in dire straits should they lose.
The Wallabies’ scrum has been viewed as its Achilles heel for many years and long-held perceptions in the northern hemisphere are hard to change with Australia, despite the improvement shown under former Argentina captain Mario Ledesma, again expected to struggle.
Much of that will come down to the influence of loosehead prop Marler who was central to his scrum achieving dominance over Wales – with England winning four penalties from the Welsh scrum in last weekend’s upset loss.
Dwyer, who won the 1991 World Cup with Australia, believes that dominance came as a result of Marler’s nefarious ways.
Principally he has been accused of coming in at an illegal angle – with Dwyer accusing the 25-year-old of regularly driving in from a 45-90 degree angle, where the rules state props must drive straight in the scrum.
“So much of the scrum is based on perception,’ Dwyer told UK newspaper the Telegraph.
“The English work on having a reputation for legal scrummaging while doing the opposite.
“If I was (current Australia coach) Michael Cheika, I would be asking the referee: ‘is that (Marler angling in) allowed?’.”
Dwyer turned the blowtorch on England’s forward coach Graham Rowntree, while suggesting fellow loosehead, Mako Vunipola, was also getting away with questionable tactics.
“It must be by design,” he said. “Neither of them scrummage square. Both of them angle in.
“Invariably that is at 45 degrees, but sometimes that ends up being at 90 degrees.
“Then when I see the opposition being penalised, I find that extremely hard to understand.”
Cheika and scrum doctor Ledesma have both insisted the Wallabies’ approach is pure and simple these days – scrum hard and straight, and leave the rest up to the referees, which in Saturday’s case is the respected Frenchman Romain Poitre.
Cheika wouldn’t be baited on talk of England’s scrum pushing the boundaries.
“The referees prepare very well for the game,” Cheika said earlier in the week.
“All we can do is stay as square as we possibly can and make the opposition make their play from there, and see what happens.
“That’s very much our strategy. I don’t think it is any secret.
“And also, put in massive amounts of weight. Really push hard.
“That’s the way our scrum is set up. I am sure (England) will have a tactic … they very much bullied us in the scrum before and I think they will try and do it again.”
Former South African referee Jonathan Kaplan agreed with Dwyer’s assessment on Twitter, saying “I’d like to see if the England pack square on the loosehead side… just the once.”