Slipper mulls new laws

 James Slipper (Gallo)
James Slipper (Gallo)

Sydney - Australia prop James Slipper is still not entirely sure what impact new scrum laws will have this weekend but he is certain that every single Wallaby will need to play out of their skins to beat their "little cousins" New Zealand.

Like all the front row forwards in the Rugby Championship, looshead Slipper will step into the unknown when he packs down for the first set scrum against the All Blacks at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

The main impact of the new laws, aimed at reducing the number of re-sets and penalties at the set piece, is expected to be the removal of the intimidating "big hit" with which the front rows have came together in recent years.

While he is still feeling his way with the new techniques required, Slipper foresees something of a return to the days of hooking hookers and front row wrestling.

"I packed my first scrum under the new rules last week so I'm reasonably new to it and most of the boys are," Slipper told Reuters this week.

"There's no way we've got it at par at the moment but we're working hard at it.

"It's got to be a stable scrum, so what that does is bring the hooking back again and that means the defensive scrum can really have a crack at the team with the ball.

"So I guess it's back to the old school, which is good."

Slipper's return to the Wallabies starting XV for the first time in eight tests - his last being in the draw against the All Blacks last year - came after his former Reds coach Ewen McKenzie won the Australia job.

Former test prop McKenzie controversially dumped stalwart loosehead Benn Robinson from his squad and installed Slipper in his stead with 21-year-old Scott Sio backing up from the bench.

Slipper, still only 24, has long been valued for his versatility - he can pack down on both sides of the front row - and his mobility around the park.

He is well aware, though, that to secure a long-term starting spot, good scrummaging is essential and hopes the new laws might help him.

"I guess you have to outwit the other prop, and I guess stay in the scrum for as long as possible, and work together," he said.

"The engagement isn't as heavy as it was in the past, so the props who relied on that big engagement, not so much technique but size and brute force, might struggle."

Slipper thinks his versatility has contributed to him starting 28 of his 37 test on the bench and is hoping another relatively new law, requiring cover for all three front row players among the replacements, might change that.

"I've always played both, which is probably why I've spent so much time on the bench because I can cover both," he said.

"But now with two props on the bench, there's no need to. But at the end of the day, I'd really like to nail one and stay in the team."

Slipper has enjoyed a great deal of success with the Reds against New Zealand sides in Super Rugby but is well aware that beating the All Blacks is an altogether tougher task.

"It's a lot easier playing Super Rugby, when you combine all those New Zealand teams together, it's a powerful team," said Slipper, who has lost six of eight tests against the All Blacks.

"Every single player in the Australia team needs to not only play their best but be a little bit better than their best in order to win.

"We do respect them as a team but at the end of the day we don't like losing to our little cousins."

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