Rookie props pass Twickenham examination

In the Twickenham cauldron where so many Wallabies front rows have crumbled before them, two rising stars survived a searching examination against one of the world’s most feared scrums and came up trumps.

And while they weren’t facing England, who have taunted the Australian scrum and made Twickenham a graveyard for recent touring teams, Saturday night’s Rugby Championship Test pitted them against renowned scrummagers Argentina.

And with the match firmly in the balance, coach Michael Cheika called on his two young bucks.

Leading 25-18 with 19 minutes to go, and having conceded a scrum on their tryline, the Wallabies front row rotated – with first-choice pair Sekope Kepu and Scott Sio making way for 22-year-olds Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson, playing in their fourth and third Tests respectively.

It was an enormous show of faith from Cheika at a pivotal moment in the match but he was rewarded with a flawless display, starting with a scrum penalty won in their first involvement.

A second scrum penalty soon after merely cemented their five-star performance as the Wallabies iced a 33-21 victory.

“We selected for a reason, and wanted to send them out there in the key moments of game against one best scrummaging front rows around,” Cheika said of the young pair.

“(Argentina have) put a lot of teams to the test. I wanted to send them out so they could get that experience.

“I thought they played quite well not just in the scrum, but in the loose.

“Allan made a nice break and Tom was there with him as well.

“Obviously there’s still a lot to build on but there’s some great experience for them to be in that battle.”

It vindicated Cheika’s decision to drop Australia’s most experienced prop, James Slipper, for the Twickenham showdown and puts the 27-year-old’s immediate future under the microscope.

But it’s a promising sign for the future of the Australian scrum, according to captain Stephen Moore who noted the experience will serve them well ahead of this year’s super-sized Spring Tour.

“Those guys will continue to get better,” he said.

“There was a number of guys out there tonight that played the first time at this ground.

“It’s going to give a good taste for what is coming in November around the atmosphere, the size of the occasion for these Test matches that are ahead of us.”

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