Baxter: We don’t fear the All Blacks front row

New Zealand's front-row forwards had better beware - so says Australian prop Al Baxter. [more]

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New Zealand’s front-row forwards had better beware – so says Australian prop Al Baxter.

Baxter was part of a poor Wallabies pack that was taken apart during their European tour last year, especially against England.

But the Waratahs front-rower claims Australian rugby has overcome that embarrassment and that the forwards are ready to take it to the All Blacks during this year’s Tri-Nations series.

"We don’t fear the All Blacks front row any more," Baxter said. "If anything we’re in a position to now move ahead of them."

The Australian’s confidence came after the New South Waratahs thumped the Blues 43-9 in their Super 14 match on Friday, where All Blacks duo Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu came off second best to Baxter and his Wallabies team-mate Adam Freier.

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With new Wallabies coach John Connolly likely to place more emphasis on the front row, the four Australian Super 14 franchises have been putting in the work to prepare for the threat posed by the likes of Woodcock, Mealamu and Highlanders prop Carl Hayman.

"With the change of coaching staff there will certainly be a different focus than in previous years," Baxter told the Sunday News.

"We’ve had to focus on the scrum because of the poor European tour and it’s showing we’re more than capable of holding our own in that area now.

"Against the Blues we proved when you get a good platform up front it all works in the backline.

"The backs get the ball on the run and it’s easier for those guys.

"When we came back (from Europe) there was a bit of soul-searching from all the Australian forwards and all four teams have focused a lot more on that.

"We certainly have at the Waratahs, and we’ve developed from last year."

The Waratahs have gone to the top of the Super 14 thanks to Friday’s win and the Hurricanes, the Crusaders – who had the bye this week – and the Brumbies rounding off the top four.

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