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Mako Vunipola wary of Australian scrum after England's World Cup humbling

Published 08/06/2016

Ben Te'o could be in line to start for England against Australia
Ben Te'o could be in line to start for England against Australia

Mako Vunipola has set the scene for Saturday's set-piece battle at Suncorp Stadium by admitting England's scrum was given a "hiding" by Australia at the World Cup last autumn.

A record defeat to the Wallabies at Twickenham sealed the hosts' demise in the global showpiece and to rub salt into the wound, a traditional source of English strength was picked apart.

Australia's scrum had long been viewed as their Achilles heel and 11 months earlier their pack had been over-run at the same venue, but Vunipola recalls only too vividly a humbling shift in power.

"They gave us a good hiding in that department during the World Cup and we know that," the Saracens loosehead said.

"We came out of that game thinking that we had thought too much of ourselves more than anything.

"We were very confident going into the World Cup as a pack, but the biggest lesson we took was that on any day anything can happen. We go into this weekend knowing that too.

"We're going into this Test match knowing we face a massive challenge as a front row and as an eight."

Vunipola admits the collective pride of England's front row took a battering at the hands of an Australia team that went on to reach the final of the tournament due to the expert guidance of their head coach Michael Cheika.

"This series has nothing to do with revenge, but as front rowers we have pride and want to move on. We have a clean slate to go out there and put a better foot forward," Vunipola said.

"There is no thought of revenge or righting wrongs of the World Cup and although it's hard to forget, it has got to go to the back of our minds.

"Australia use their scrum as a weapon now, not just to get ball out to their backline which has been their traditional strength.

"Now they're using their forward pack to dominate, whether that's through the scrum or the maul.

"They've become one of the best packs in the world and they've got some great coaches around them. Cheika's been in Europe and had a lot of experience there.

"He's learnt from that and now he has taken that down to the southern hemisphere, they've become a dangerous team all over the park."

Australia's 1991 World Cup-winning coach Bob Dwyer accused Joe Marler of scrummaging illegally in the build-up to the Pool A showdown and Dan Cole believes that had an influence on referee Romain Poite, who oversees Saturday's Brisbane showdown.

"We were angry because we saw things differently to how they were interpreted," Leicester tighthead Cole said.

"The way things were portrayed in newspapers and stuff and Bob Dwyer coming out - it loaded the contest in the scrum.

"There were decisions made in that game which went against us. Dwyer probably influenced it.

"But we also have to hold our hands up - we were beaten by the better side. I remember coming in after the game and thinking: 'that was probably one of the best Test teams I've ever played against'. They were on fire."

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