Young Wallabies props on world-beating pace

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies’ next generation of props are on the path to being world class, according to scrum coach Mario Ledesma.

Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson have been two of the surprises of this season and both are just 22.

Allan Alaalatoa is set to go head-to-head with older brother Michael on Sunday. Alaalatoa has already notched three Tests for the Wallabies and in a twist of fate, Robertson could be the one to replace the injured Brumbies front rower this weekend.

The two are part of a new group of Australian props, benefitting from a greater focus on development, Ledesma said.

“It's weird to have two kids 21,22 years old stepping up and performing and delivering, because being a front rower, it comes with age,” he said.

”They have a really bright future because if they're delivering at 21,22, I expect them to be world class in a couple of years’ time.

“Even in the U20s there's a couple of big boys coming through but it's really exciting for Australian rugby having that kind of level (of talent), especially on the tight (side of the scrum).”

Mario Ledesma throws himself into training. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyLedesma has only been involved with Australian rugby since last year but said the front row was something that had been identified as an area of improvement in the state ranks.

“I just think that everybody assessed that a couple of years ago that maybe that was, not a weakness. but something that we could work on,” he said.

“So, I think that all the clubs, all the states are making an effort to detect those talents and (as?) they're coming through.”

The Wallabies scrum was transformed last year under Ledesma and while it wasn’t quite as potent early in the season, Ledesma has faith that their forward pack are on the right path after ‘dominating’ the Springboks.

“We had 92 per cent accuracy on our scrums, on our put in, against the Kiwis and 100 per cent against South Africa and I think trying to be completely objective, I think that we dominated South Africa in the scrum,” he said.

The Wallabies were dominant against South Africa's scrum. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“I think it's always been a work in progress and we said it after the World Cup when everybody was saying we had a great scrum, just obviously the other teams trying to put us under a little bit of pressure but we're working.

“All the guys are playing really well, but scrums are very humbling, you can never say, 'Well, we're going to dominate this scrum or we're going to smash that scrum,' because the next one you'll get smashed.

“I think we're on the right track but still a lot of work.”

The Wallabies’ scrum challenge won’t get any easier against the Pumas, despite the fact that Argentina have moved away from their trademark reliance on scrums, adding offloads and attacking flair to their repertoire, extra elements that shone against the All Blacks.

Australia host Argentina at nib Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. Buy tickets here.