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Friday September 13, 2013 MYT 4:42:50 PM
Friday September 13, 2013 MYT 4:43:33 PM
by nick mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia remain committed to playing running rugby despite four successive defeats but they know it is going to take some good, old fashioned forward grunt to get them past Argentina in the Rugby Championship this weekend.
Ewen McKenzie's men were blown away at the breakdown and set scrum in their 38-12 defeat at the hands of South Africa last week and a similarly insipid performance in Perth on Saturday could easily lead to a fifth straight loss.
The Pumas showed in their 28-13 loss to the All Blacks that they have the muscle up front to disrupt even the best packs and will be looking to isolate the Australian runners as effectively as the Springboks did in Brisbane.
"We weren't too impressed by our performance at the weekend against the Springboks but I guess our success will be determined by the platform that the forwards lay," centre Adam Ashley-Cooper told reporters in Perth on Friday.
"I know these guys have addressed the areas that needed addressing during the week, they've worked really hard in that regard so for us, it's about a balance this weekend, not only playing a good brand of rugby but making good decisions."
Scrumhalf Will Genia has paid the price for a string of uncharacteristically disappointing performances behind a retreating pack by being dropped to the bench, elevating number eight Ben Mowen to the captaincy in only his seventh test.
Mowen, who brings the team leadership back to the pack in the continued absence of injured lock James Horwill, said his team mates would be left in no doubt what was expected of them at Subiaco Oval.
"The biggest part of the job is making sure you give great clarity to the group around how we want to play and what we're trying to execute," he said on Friday.
"To me, the role is purely about making it black and white for the side, so there's no grey going into the weekend and then you can navigate from there."
Despite McKenzie's reign as coach opening with three defeats, Mowen said the team remained committed to playing in the "Australian way" with ball in hand.
"All the guys in this group have a lot of belief in what we're trying to achieve," he added.
"We are at the start of developing where we want to be. We want to be playing rugby where a year or two down the track, people are trying to catch up with us.
"We firmly believe we've got the skills to do that."
Support for McKenzie's project came from an unusual quarter on Thursday when New Zealand's World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry said it was the only way for Australia to get back to the top of the game.
"When they were the best team in the world at the turn of the century, they played an expansive game," Henry, a coaching consultant for the Pumas, said in Perth.
"It's the way they should play because that's their mentality and that's their skill level.
"I don't think you are going to win games by playing chess-board rugby and kicking the balls in the air and chasing it.
"That's not the way Australians play, and they haven't got the forward pack that can give you that sort of dominance."
Australia are rooted to the bottom of the championship standings with no points but have not lost to Argentina since 1997, although they had to overturn a 13-point deficit in the last quarter to beat the Pumas on the Gold Coast a year ago.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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