Pain of Lions defeat will last a lifetime, says Wallaby Ben Alexander
Scrum needs dominant display in major match to silence critics says prop
Ben Alexander has said nothing will erase the memory of Australia’s third-test defeat by the British & Irish Lions in July, with only a dominant display by the Wallaby scrum in a major match likely to silence their critics.
The Lions thrashed Australia 41-16 in Sydney to take what had been a tight series 2-1, with the combined side dominating Australia at the scrum.
It was a defeat compounded for Alexander by his being outplayed by direct front-row opponent Alex Corbisiero, who scored the Lions’ first try, and made all the worse for the Brumbies prop by the fact he was sin-binned after just 25 minutes.
“The way that third game went was heart-breaking,” recalled Alexander, who said not even beating 2015 World Cup pool opponents England in Australia’s European tour opener at Twickenham on Saturday would compensate them for the Lions reverse.
Given it is another 12 years before the Lions return to Australia, Alexander – 29 later this month – knows avenging that loss is out of the question.
“For us, we’ll never get that chance again,” said the 58-times capped forward.
“We’re just left with what-ifs ... It definitely was the most disappointing moment in my career.”
Alexander, looking ahead to Saturday’s match, added: “I don’t think it will erase it if we perform well.
“It won’t really clear it up until a World Cup semi or final when the scrum performs that people will finally go ‘the scrum is solid’.
“Our problem has been consistency. You are not going to win a World Cup unless your scrum is consistent. I don’t think we’ll ever silence the critics until that happens.”
And personal revenge over Corbisiero will have to wait too, with the England prop sidelined from this weekend’s match with a knee injury.
But Alexander could yet be up against two familiar front-row opponents should prop Dan Cole and hooker Tom Youngs be included in England’s starting XV, with both teams set to name their sides on Thursday.
Alexander played alongside the duo, with Youngs then a centre, when they were all at second-tier English side Bedford back in 2005.
“As soon as I met Coley, I knew he’d go places,” said Alexander.
“Tom Youngs, I was very impressed with him as a centre! He’s an outstanding player. He knows what he’s doing [in the front row].
“He’s at a great club Leicester, no better place to learn. Look at the blokes he’s got around him, Coley, Graham Rowntree [the Lions’ forwards chief] is a great coach and Richard Cockerill [the former England hooker turned Leicester head coach] knows a thing or two about scrums.”
So too does Wallaby boss Ewen McKenzie, the former Australia front row who took charge of the side after Deans was sacked following the Lions series loss.
“I always enjoy having a front row as a coach. The more props in charge the better. He’s been awesome,” said Alexander.
But the longed-for change in Wallaby fortunes has yet to materialise, with Australia winning just two of McKenzie’s seven games in charge to make their 2013 record three wins from 10 Tests heading into Saturday’s Cook Cup clash.
“It takes time to build a culture but I think we’re going in the right direction,” Alexander insisted.