There were few positives to take amid the rubble of England’s shocking defeat to Wales last weekend – but Pocklington’s Rob Webber insists an improved scrum was one of them.
And the hooker is convinced that it can prove the cornerstone for the must-win clash against Australia on Saturday.
England won five out of six of their own scrums against the Welsh at Twickenham, in stark contrast to the pack’s mediocre performance against Fiji in the opener.
It was of course cold comfort for the Red Rose but it is one building block, at least, to take forward against an Australian scrum who have shaken off their perceived weakness at the set-piece in recent months.
Australia bossed the Fijian pack from start to finish during their own victory over the Pacific Islanders and look a more fluid unit since former Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma was drafted in as the Wallabies’ scrum coach in July.
Yet former Pocklington School pupil Webber maintains that England still back themselves against any set of forwards in the world.
“The scrum went well against Wales and the little tweaks we’d work on during the week came to fruition,” said Webber.
“I think we were unlucky on some occasions not to get more reward but we’ll certainly back ourselves against anyone in the world, we’ve got a great set of forwards with great coaches in the area – an English pack always prides itself on its scrum and we’re no different.
“We are obviously acutely aware that it’s a huge, huge game for the nation – we’ve got to carry that responsibility and make sure we get the win and put the pressure back onto the other sides.
“To do that we’re preparing well for Australia, looking at them as well as us, and moving forward we’re excited by that challenge.
“They’re much improved, all credit to the coaches and players that have come in and what have you, but you can never underestimate an Australian side.
“You’d be naive to do that and we certainly won’t. In the forward battle they’re much improved, as were we last week I think, but that scrum and maul battle should be a great aspect in the game. We’re certainly looking to get on the front foot there.”
England are standing on the precipice ahead of Saturday – they could feasibly still end up winning the group if results go their way, while a defeat to Australia could be the final nail in the coffin in Pool A.
And unless they curb their ill-discipline – having presented man-of-the-match Dan Biggar a chance to kick Wales back into the game with seven successful penalties – Webber admits the Webb Ellis trophy will be out of reach no matter what happens.
“We just need to be accurate 100 per cent of the time, that’s what Test rugby is about,” Webber added. “If one person is slightly off, it affects things. We just need to make sure we can control what we can control and make sure we’re on the money in Saturday.
“The more points you score, the harder it is for them to come back, and if we’d got more than ten out in front, there probably would have seen a slightly different finish to the game. That’s the learning we’ll have to take from it, the accuracy at the death.”
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