Clear mind helping Sio back to top form

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

It’s often said that players returning from injury must overcome as many mental hurdles as they do physical and Scott Sio couldn’t agree more.

The Wallabies loosehead knows plenty about the psychological challenge that injuries present, having spent plenty of time on the sidelines over the last two years with elbow, ankle and hamstring injuries.

He was, once again, marred by a knee injury throughout the Brumbies’ Super Rugby campaign in 2017.

That mix of injuries has left Sio needing game time to regain his confidence, particularly with ball in hand.

His performance against the Springboks at the weekend was a sign he has cleared those mental obstacles, though, as he carried the ball with intent not seen since the 2015 World Cup.

“I think last year I had a couple of injuries that held me back in my own mind,” Sio said.

“It (ball carrying) was such a strength of my game for a couple of years and something that I may have gone away from last year.

“I’ve had a few injuries as well this year but I have come out the other end of them on a good note and I’ve been able to play some good footy.

“Injuries are just as much mental as they are physical so having the right approach to it this year has been a lot better for me.

“I’m just reading what’s in front of me, playing what’s in front of me and I think the way the team is playing this year helps.

“We are playing more off the cuff and you can see sometimes it doesn’t quite come to fruition but the more we keep doing it, the more we see the rewards of it.”

While added impact in attack is a bonus, it isn’t at the top of Sio’s priority list.

Top spot is reserved for scrum time and the starting front row that Sio forms an integral part of got the upper hand against the Springboks in Bloemfontein.

That, according to Sio, has plenty to do with the reps the front row have been able to piece together on game day.

“Being able to scrum with Keps and Taf consecutively over the last few games has built that combination and so much of rugby is combinations,” Sio said.

“We always hear about the 9-10 combination, the centre combination and the backrow combination but it’s no different than a lock pairing and a front row as well.

“The more reps we get together at training and on the weekend means we are able to problem solve a lot quicker on the field, realise where the pressure is coming from a lot faster so when the next scrum comes in we can change to achieve an outcome.

“A lot of it is very technical and I could go on for a while but the combination is massive - especially in that front row - so to be able to string a few games together with those guys has been huge and it’s gone a long way to achieving the results we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks.”

While the starting pack got the upper hand at the weekend, the finishers were put under the pump by the Boks.

That was the inverse of the last time the Wallabies faced the Argentinians, where the second half saw Australia apply serious heat to the Pumas' set piece.

“We have started pretty slow this year and we saw how a fast start against New Zealand can turn out,” Sio said.

“We were in that for 80 minutes against the best team in the world so we have to start fast against a good team like Argentina to try and put them away early.

“We came out raring to go in that second half and got on top early.

“We got the result we were looking for so if we can put that pressure on for 80 minutes it will go a long way to getting that win on the weekend.”

The Wallabies take on Argentina in Mendoza on Sunday, kicking off at 9:40am AEDT, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.