Axe looms for Baxter

Springbok loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira can brace himself for a duel with Ben Alexander as it appears the Australia selectors have lost faith in Al Baxter.

Baxter suffered the indignity of being substituted 30 minutes into the Test against New Zealand on Saturday after being repeatedly penalised for scrum infringements. The tighthead prop also gave away a string of penalties against the same opponents in their opening match of the tournament.

Alexander steadied the scrum in Sydney and now looks a dead certainty to start against the Springboks in Perth, setting up a battle with Mtawarira who has scrummed well to date.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans yesterday admitted that they had planned to replace Baxter if he was being consistently pinned by referee Jonathan Kaplan, which he was.

‘That was a contributing factor, but we always anticipated getting Ben [Alexander] into the game as well,’ Deans added.

‘He [Alexander] went great. He is going really well. He’s done well in every instance, and he’s comfortable in that [tighthead] role.’

Baxter conceded he is under enormous pressure.

‘This has given me a kick up the bum to perform better at training and make sure I perform better when I get into the game,’ he said.

‘Ben has been playing very well at training and every time he has come on, so I guess they knew they had a good back-up option on the bench.’