Eddie Jones believes his Australian pack will “dominate the World Cup”, as the Wallabies return to the country of their greatest forward embarrassment in 2007.
Australia’s scrum was obliterated by an Andrew Sheridan-inspired England in Marseille in the quarter-finals of the World Cup 16 years ago, and the Wallabies head coach has admitted that he “never would have dreamt” sitting at a pre-match press conference hailing his “huge pack”, with captain Will Skelton lining up behind Taniela Tupou in a fearsome right-hand side of the scrummage.
“The periods of play are so intense [in the modern game], but that suits a big forward pack like us,” Jones said, at the Stade de France, the stadium in which Australia meet Georgia in the opening match of Pool C on Saturday. “I never would have dreamt coming to a press conference as the coach of Australia and saying we have a huge pack that can dominate the World Cup – and we have.
“And we intend to use that to our advantage. We have a really big, strong, fast pack that’s ready to take on the opposition. And that starts with Georgia.
“Taniela Tupou has the talent to be the No 1 tighthead prop in the world. He’s an extremely powerful scrummager. He’s added versatility to the way he scrummages. He had a period where his only option was to go in, now he scrummages very straight, which will be very important against the Georgians, who historically have prided themselves in that area.”
“And he’s got the fastest feet I’ve ever seen for a tighthead prop.”
When it was put to Jones that earlier in the year the head coach described his Australia side as a “broken down Datsun 1200”, he replied wryly: “We’re ready to go, mate. F1. Whatever car it is in F1. We’re in a fast one at the starting grid. Ready to take off, mate.”
Englishman Luke Pearce will be the man with the whistle in Saint-Denis on Saturday afternoon for Australia’s Georgian challenge, an official Jones will know well from his time as England head coach. While the 63-year-old would not be drawn on offering his assessment of Pearce, he hopes that the lessons of their warm-up match against France last month are heeded – specifically the yellow card received by wing Suliasi Vunivalu.
“World Rugby is always in the shadows,” Jones said with a smirk. “They have listening devices everywhere. Everything you say gets recorded – and you don’t want any black marks against you, mate.
“The interesting decision against France was where [Suliasi Vunivalu] got sin-binned for a legitimate action. In the Premiership, if you make a line-break and you interfere with that breakdown, they deem it as an automatic sin-bin, there’s no question.
“I’m sure World Rugby has had a chat with [referee Luke Pearce] about that and it won’t be the case on Saturday.”