Paul defends Aussie pack

Wallaby hooker Jeremy Paul believes his country’s forward talent is the best he has seen in his nine years as a Test player.

Paul’s statement follows a 2005 Test season that saw the Australian pack humiliated regularly, most notably at Twickenham, and a heavy defeat to the All Blacks last weekend that was blamed on their inability to dominate up front.

“We do have one of the most exciting back lines in the world, but I also really believe we have the potential to be one of the best forward packs in the world,” Paul told the Sydney Morning Herald’s Greg Growden.

“Look at our second-rowers – Nathan Sharpe and Dan Vickerman. They’re both world class, and you have guys like George Smith, who is special. Rocky Elsom is only 23 and he’s starting to step up to Test footy. You have guys fighting for positions, like Scott Fava, and guys like Daniel Heenan and Wycliff Palu on the fringes as well.

“I’ve played in a few Australian packs over the years, but now I see so much talent. I probably see just as much, if not more talent, in this pack of eight than I’ve ever played with. Talent-wise, some of these guys are phenomenal.”

Paul said the young front-rowers such as Guy Shepherdson, Greg Holmes and Rodney Blake had to get more experience against the best props in the world.

“I remember nine years ago when I was playing my fourth Test, I was absolutely crapping myself,” Paul said. “You’re playing against some of the biggest blokes in the world. It is daunting, and hard. But as the years go on, you start wishing you had started the way you are playing now. It all takes time.”