Wales warning for England over scrum
England can expect Wales to be "pointing a finger" if their loosehead prop Joe Marler scrummages illegally during Saturday's RBS 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham.
Wales felt that at times in last September's World Cup pool clash between the countries they were harshly penalised, with Harlequins forward Marler's angle of scrummaging sparking considerable post-match debate.
Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist Robin McBryde claimed on Thursday that Marler then got "found out" against Australia a week later, when an emphatic Wallabies victory followed Wales' 28-25 win and confirmed England's painful World Cup demise.
South African Craig Joubert will make his first Test match appearance this weekend since the World Cup quarter-final between Scotland and Australia that he controlled last October ended amid a controversial penalty award and Joubert then sprinting off at the final whistle.
Asked whether Wales would raise the issue of Marler's scrummaging with Joubert, McBryde said: "Well, yeah, he definitely needs to scrummage legally, otherwise we will be pointing a finger.
"You have to measure each scrum on its own merits with regards to who gets the upper hand.
"We have a very experienced referee in Craig Joubert. He's an extremely good communicator with the players, and (Wales captain) Sam Warburton enjoys working with him.
"I can't see it being a problem on the day, because both teams have a positive attitude to scrummaging. That is what we will be focusing on.
"There was a big focus on the loosehead's (scrummaging) angle going into the World Cup. It was highlighted to us particularly with regards to Gethin (Jenkins) and Paul (James), and it was an area we focused on a lot.
"So it was very disappointing, especially against England, when we fell on the wrong sides of decisions and we felt the problem lay elsewhere.
"But the feedback we had after that game was positive with what we were trying to do, and we felt we should have had a couple more penalties in that game.
"It's very hard for me as a coach when the players are saying: 'They are doing it and getting away with it. Why have we changed?'
"The tables did turn somewhat in the (England) game against Australia, but that's on the day. In fairness to referees, they have a lot on their plate.
"All we can hope to do is build a relationship with Craig Joubert so we have a better understanding of where he is coming from and what he is looking at."
Asked if Marler's technique was a contributory factor to Wales' scrum problems against England last year, McBryde added: "That was the feedback we had after the World Cup, in particular, and he got found out against Australia.
"We've come on a long way since then, not just the players, but me as a coach. It's one thing trying to appease the officials, but we have to be careful we don't leave ourselves exposed as well in that area."
Wales' scrum has proved a model of consistency so far in this season's Six Nations, with their front-row of Rob Evans, Scott Baldwin and Samson Lee delivering high standards.
"There are a lot of things in the mix at the moment," McBryde said.
"There is Samson Lee's current fitness. It was early days for him at the World Cup with his injury, and Rob Evans is definitely scrummaging the best he ever has as far as I'm concerned, and Scott Baldwin is leading from the front as a hooker as well.
"Tomas Francis' scrummaging has come on leaps and bounds, we know we've got the experience of Paul James on the bench and Ken Owens, so all round as a front-row we are in a pretty good place.
"Collectively, we are in a much better place, irrespective of who the opponents are."
Wales travelled to their base in Surrey on Thursday, and McBryde revealed that their final training session before departure hit all the right buttons.
"Today's session in particular, all of us as coaches looked at each other and said 'we are in a pretty good place at the moment'." McBryde said.
"There was a fluidity and intensity about the training, and that gives us a lot of confidence going into the weekend.
"They (England) have got the bit between their teeth, and they have obviously created quite a bit of momentum with three wins out of three. They are sitting pretty and not too far away from where they want to be.
"I think we have steadily got better and better as the tournament has gone on. The longer we spend together, the better we seem to get."