England pack will test Wallabies: Paul - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

England pack will test Wallabies: Paul

By Adrian Warren 30/05/2006 07:58:56 PM Comments (0)

Wallaby veteran Jeremy Paul has rubbished suggestions England will have a depleted pack and says the tourists will provide a tough initiation for Australia's newcomers in next month's two-Test rugby series.

New coach John Connolly stressed one thing Australia had to have was a forward pack "that is going to aim up".

Only four starters from the pack demolished by England last November were named in the Wallaby squad.

One of the survivors of the scrum mauled that day, tighthead prop Al Baxter, accounts for 31 of the 34 caps earned by the new squad's five props, three of whom have yet to play a Test.

Injuries and the need to rest key players means the England squad arriving in Sydney on Wednesday contains just two starting members of last November's pack in captain Pat Sanderson and fellow flanker Lewis Moody.

The casualty list includes props Andrew Sheridan and Phil Vickery, who played a major part in destabilising the Wallaby scrum last year.

The touring party still boasts some formidable forward power in British and Irish Lions front rower Graham Rowntree and another hugely experienced prop in Julian White, plus Lions lock Ben Kay, the only member of the squad who started the 2003 world Cup final against Australia.

"Everyone is saying it's a weaker England side, that's rubbish," said hooker Paul, the most capped forward in the Australian squad with 63 appearances.

"The forwards they are sending out, especially the tight five, are extremely good scrummagers and also good exponents of the lineout.

"It will be a very good test for us, because there's a lot of young guys coming into the squad and I think it's a really good initiation," added Paul who missed last November's tour through injury.

Baxter wasn't especially concerned about extracting revenge for the humiliation wrought on the overpowered Wallaby scrum by England last year.

"It's not so much retribution, but you certainly want to go out there and prove yourself again and get back on the horse, so to speak," said Baxter, whose dark day against England was compounded by a trip to the sin bin.

He said he would have liked the opportunity to play against direct opponent Sheridan and the other forwards from that game, who won't be travelling to Australia.

With such an inexperienced set of props, Connolly said he wanted to increase his options by looking at established tighthead Baxter at loosehead, where he will play half a game for NSW against New Zealand Maori at the SCG on Friday.

Connolly said it was a close battle for the starting hooker's spot in the team between Paul, Adam Freier and uncapped bolter Tai McIsaac.

"I think Freier has had a phenomenal year, I think McIsaac is a very strong scrummager, and a good lineout thrower," Connolly said.

"Jeremy has got 50 Tests under his belt, and round the field, he's an outstanding player, so they are slightly different types, and we'll just see how that works out.

"With the six day turnaround, you could easily, with two inexperienced hookers, see one hooker start one Test and one hooker start the other Test."

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