Australian hooker Stephen Moore believes that the Wallabies now have more depth and confidence in their scrum than the disintegrating set-piece that brought them shatteringly undone at the last World Cup.
The Australians were rattled by unrelenting England pressure in bowing out in their quarterfinal 12-10 at Marseille in their worst performance of the 2007 tournament.
Moore, a survivor of that torrid afternoon at Stade Velodrome, believes the Australian forward pack has improved markedly under the coaching of Robbie Deans and is ready to make a statement against the forwards-dominated Italy on Sunday.
While the Wallaby pack buckled under the intense pressure generated by the Andrew Sheridan-led English forwards, Moore is confident the 2011 Australian version will make their mark in New Zealand.
"The first game, irrespective of who it's against, it's important to set the standards for how you want to perform throughout the tournament," Moore said.
"So particularly in the set-piece you want make sure we send a message there and give ourselves a bit of momentum going forward."
While the unedifying sight of the Australian pack in disarray lingers the Wallabies have been working hard to be able to provide enough front-foot ball for their youthful backline.
"We've got a lot more depth, that's something we have improved on," said Moore, only one of four survivors from the Marseille debacle along with Dan Vickerman, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Rocky Elsom.
"There's a lot more guys who are now capable of playing at the highest level and that's going to be vital over the coming months. Throughout the Tri-Nations we were certainly happy with the progress we made.
"We've given the scrum a fair bit more focus this year, we've spoken about it a lot more between games. That's helped the forward pack to buy into its importance and it's going to be very important that our scrum and lineout are solid for the next two months."
Tighthead prop Ben Alexander, who made his Test debut a year after the Marseille shambles, bristles at suggestions that the Australian pack remains a weakness.
He commented: "We have great faith in how we scrummage. We've had people writing off the Australian scrum for years and it's like water off a duck's back now. People can say what they want, it doesn't affect us one bit.
"We want to be the best team in the world and the best team needs the best pack of forwards and that's all we need to spur us on. The criticisms hurt when you first hear them but it just doesn't bother us any more, we move on, it's no point crying over spilt milk," said Alexander.
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