MELBOURNE, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Australia fell foul of the new scrum law with a number of crooked feeds in the Rugby Championship opener but will be on the straight and narrow for the return match in New Zealand, Ben Alexander said on Tuesday.
The new law, which made its test debut in in the All Blacks-Wallabies clash in Sydney last weekend, aims to make the set-piece safer for front row forwards and reduce the number of scrum re-sets and penalties.
The result was “a lottery for both sides” in the words of Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, with both halfbacks penalised for illegal feeds.
“From our point of view, we probably won’t see any of these feeding issues again this week,” 28-year-old tighthead prop Alexander told reporters in Melbourne.
”We’ve got to help our halfbacks out and help our our hookers because obviously there’s a lot more pressure on the referees.
”We’ve got to adapt to their interpretations better. They made it very clear what they were looking for.
”I think it’s just going to be (best for) whoever adapts quickest. This is (my) sixth season and the fourth set of (scrum) changes.
“Whoever adapts quickest will profit initially but good scrums will still be good scrums and poor ones will still get punished.”
In their humbling 47-29 loss at Olympic Stadium, Australia were belted across the board and face surrendering the Bledisloe Cup, the annual trophy contested between the two southern hemisphere powers, for an 11th straight year with defeat in Wellington on Saturday.
The team will also head to New Zealand without flanker Hugh McMeniman, who started on the blindside in Sydney but will be sidelined for six months to have a shoulder reconstruction.
Two-time world champions Australia also depart Melbourne with a lower ranking, having dropped to fourth in the world this week, with England leapfrogging them into third.
Alexander, who had a torrid time at the scrum in last month’s humbling in the third test against the British and Irish Lions, bristled when asked how comfortable he felt playing in a fourth-ranked side.
“We’ve lost three of our past four games, so we probably expect to go backwards in the rankings,” he said.
“Obviously you want to be number one don’t you? Until we’re number one we won’t be satisfied. But we won’t be dwelling on that, we’ll be dwelling on the job that needs to be done, not where we’re seated in the world rankings.” (Editing by Nick Mulvenney)