The Wallabies have a new scrum coach. He's coaching them via zoom

by Christy Doran

The Wallabies' preparations for the Bledisloe opener have taken an unusual twist, with news that recently appointed scrum coach Petrus du Plessis has yet to join Dave Rennie's men in New Zealand.

But then again, nothing is unusual during these unprecedented COVID-19 times where zoom calls are the new norm.

That is where du Plessis has been running his eye over the Wallabies' pack, with the former Glasgow Warriors, London Irish and Saracens prop forced to get his messages across the zoom service after being unable to join his new side because a shortage of flights arriving in Australia from the UK.

Du Plessis was appointed as the Wallabies' scrum coach last month, having earned a reputation as a formidable scrummager - and physiotherapist - in the English Premiership.

It's understood that the South African will arrive in Australia before The Rugby Championship, but until then the highly respected former prop, who was a player coach under Rennie recently at Glasgow, will be forced to coach the Wallabies' scrum from the sidelines.

It's hardly ideal preparation for the Wallabies less than two weeks out from their first Test of the year against the All Blacks on October 11.

Until he arrives, newly appointed forwards coach Geoff Parling has been running his eye over the scrum.

Thankfully for the former English lock he has the benefit of having a hoist of experienced props at his disposal in loose-head props James Slipper (96 Tests) and Scott Sio (63 Tests), while Allan Alaalatoa and Taniela Tupou are two of the best young tight-head props in the world.

"I don't think he's (du Plessis) with us at the moment," Wallabies back-rower Pete Samu revealed on Tuesday.

"But a lot of his stuff has been over videos online and zoom.

"A lot of our forward stuff Geoff's been taking and we've got a lot of experienced forwards in our forward pack, so not having our scrum coach here those boys have been stepping up and taking charge."

On Monday, recalled Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa added that Parling had made an impact at the scrum.

"I can definitely see his experience," he said.

"But I’ve seen it a lot more even in the scrums because the emphasis he puts on the back-row – very similar to (Queensland Reds coach) Brad Thorn – to make sure that their body height is good, that they’re tight, together and pushing at the scrum.

"That’s what I love to hear as a front-rower, I love hearing our forwards coach get into our back-rowers and back five making sure that they’re giving us everything we can in the front row. He’s definitely a great coach."

After playing nine Tests in 2018, Samu is in-line to make his return to the Wallabies side after being looked over last year.

It's hardly the output many thought he was have given the tug-of-war Rugby Australia had with the Crusaders to allow him to join the Wallabies in 2018 and later join the Brumbies.

The three-time Super Rugby winner said he was happy to return to the Test fold after a frustrating 2019 season where he didn't get the feedback he desired.

"Yeah, I didn't play as much Test footy as I wanted but being back in the squad (I'm) just pretty keen to start playing again and push for a starting spot," he said.

"I've just been just working on those little things in the lineout and scrums, so I've just been working on my set-piece and breakdown stuff.

"Yeah, it was, it was very frustrating just not knowing (why I wasn't in the team). That's in the past now. I'm just looking forward to the first Test and pulling that jersey on again."

It just so happens that the Wallabies are back in the city where Samu made his name, so much so that on Sunday Crusaders and All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo'unga dropped off some toiletries and food to the team's hotel.

After failing to crack it at the Waratahs, Samu made the move over to New Zealand in 2014 and it wasn't before long that he was a regular with the Crusaders.

During that time he was regularly used as a super sub and played a pivotal role under Scott Robertson's reborn Crusaders.

While admitting that the return to Christchurch brought back happy memories, Samu said he was under no illusions that he would coast back into the side under Rennie and faced a stern battle against exciting No.8 Harry Wilson.

"I actually thought about that (winning three titles in his past four years) the other week after our Super Rugby AU final," he said.

"I don't know, it's not as easy as it sounds. I think the main thing is I've been enjoying my footy whether that's a win or a loss I've been enjoying myself and at the Brumbs.

"Having those are good but you've got to perform to play Test footy, we've got the All Blacks so I'll be putting my hand up for that spot.

"He's (Rennie) kept to his word and there's some great young backrowers coming through and they're all putting their hands up for that starting spot. It's good to have that competition going for that No.8 spot having Harry Wilson there, he had an awesome season as well. It'll be good to compete with Harry for that spot and we'll see how we go."


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