Mid-season "catch-ups" helping build Test bonds: Sio

The Rugby Championship
by Iain Payten

Mid-season bonding work done at the Wallabies’ three “catch up” camps helped the Australian scrum have a good night out against Argentina in Brisbane, according to prop Scott Sio.

But the Wallabies’ pack must apply consistency back up their performance against the All Blacks in Perth next week, or risk losing the positive impact on their reputation as scrummagers.

After sitting out the Johannesburg Test with injury, Sio’s return in Brisbane to a front row also containing Folau Faingaa and Sekope Kepu helped the Wallabies scrum turn in a dominant show over the Pumas.

Encouragingly for coach Michael Cheika, the dominance continued when the bench front rowers were rolled out in the second half; James Slipper, Taniela Tupou and Tolu Latu.

Sio said the seamless transitions made were down to the six players all having strong connections.

Michael Cheika overlooking the Wallabies scrum in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images"Just time together, combinations,” Sio said. 

"Fortunately for us, ‘Slips' and myself have partnered well at Brumbies level, Folau and Tolu have known each other for a long time at Shute Shield and Super Rugby level, and I have played wth ‘Keps' and Taniela, and ‘Slips' also had that relationship with Taniela up at the Reds.

"Building that combination was really easy for us and luckily it is quick, and luckily it all gelled at the weekend. It was a good performance but something we need to build on coming into the games."

Asked whether the Wallabies scrum was building towards a repeat of the 2015 World Cup, where the Aussie pack was an under-rated force at scrum-time, Sio said the pack had to keep performing to wipe out preconceived notions of Australia having a weak scrum.

"I feel like we are building towards that (2015),” Sio said. 

"It is a reputation that is forever being criticised, one way or another, so in every game and every scrum you need to be on and be consistent to make sure the conversation is the one you are after.

"It’s a good foundation to build off but I know for us to progress and win throughout the year, we need to go up another level.”

Sio said the connections and combinations between the Wallaby scrum unit had benefited from a series of mid-Super Rugby camps, where the top Aussie players were able to lay down their arms for a few days and focus together on the World Cup.

The Wallabies' front rowers have built a strong relationship. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"Having spent a lot of time together during Super Rugby has allowed us to do that,” he said.

"You don’t get a lot of time post-Super Rugby to gel, so being able to have met up at least three times during the season has given us the opportunity to build that rapport among one another.

"Obviously we are competing against each other for a good five months, and it is not that easy to just put that aside and come together for a common goal.

"So laying that foundation early and through the season is a big stepping stone towards us looking to achieve what we want to.”

Sio said the Wallabies had not produced a perfect performance against the Pumas but said their levels of desire and commitment were pleasing.

"We had a few focuses from that South Africa game that we wanted to nail, and it wasn’t all our way in the game, but we managed to connect and work our way out of some tricky situations and that’s down to effort,” Sio said.

"The boys showed that in spades, specially those guys like Hoops, Marika, Christian, making a lot of those cover tackles as well. Tevita as well. It shows we are willing to work for each other and we are happy we got the result we are after."

The Wallabies take on New Zealand at Optus Stadium, Perth, on Saturday August 10, kicking off at 5;45pm local, 7;45pm AEST, with the Wallaroos-Black Ferns kicking off at 3pm local, 5pm AEST. The Wallabies are LIVE on Network Ten, FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and RUGBY.com.au RADIO while the Wallaroos will be shown on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.