Perception not primary in scrum overhaul

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said wholesale front row changes were as much about performance as a response to any refereeing perception.

Cheika has dropped Scott Sio out of the matchday 23, replaced by James Slipper and Toby Smith on the bench, and brought Sekope Kepu into the starting front row for the first time since the World Cup.

“Obviously, when your prop goes to the sin bin, there's some type of perception there about what he's doing or what is going on,” he said.

“He'd only given away one penalty but I want to make sure there's no perception about that at all. We're just here to scrum square and hard and push as hard as we can. 

“That's what we'll be doing.”

Scott Sio has been dropped out of the matchday 23. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyCheika pointed to Smith’s Super Rugby form, after a switch to loosehead for the Melbourne Rebels this year as a reason for the change.

“The other thing that’s relevant there is the performance of Toby Smith,” he said.

“I think he’s been outstanding this year for the Rebels. 

"He played at tighthead for us at the World Cup and they’ve moved him over to loosehead this year his ball carrying been strong, his aggression’s been good, his scrummaging’s been strong and I want to give him the chance to play. 

“I want to give opportunities to guys who have deserved it. Scotty had his chance last week, didn’t take it and now it’s Toby’s turn.”

Cheika said he wasn’t worried by the accusations on England scrum from outside commentators, focusing on their own issues.

The Wallabies coach emphasises a desire to hand opportunities to in-form players, giving players like Smith, Sam Carter and Sean McMahon a chance to prove themselves, while showing faith to his fledgling centres pairing of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani.

Michael Cheika has shown faith in Samu Kerevi. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyCheika said he wanted to show faith in Kerevi, who was forced into a number of different roles after Rob Horne exited the match with concussion.

“I liked what Kerevi did, he ran good metres, he was threatening, put the defence under pressure,” he said.

“When he ran, he had to play out of position a little bit when we had the wing issue, so he had to play in the wider channels a little bit as a running back out there but I thought, that's his first taste of it, I want to give him more of a taste. 

“I want to build players who are going to be playing for Australia for a long time and build their quality and experience in the game.

"You can't do that by not rewarding what I felt was a good performance on debut.”