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Barbs fly over scrum ahead of England-Australia rugby test

The scrum has proved a pivotal factor in many England-Australia rugby matches in recent years, so no wonder it's the focus of the buildup to the latest meeting of the bitter rivals on Saturday.

And the barbs have been flying in both directions.

England coach Eddie Jones — an Australian — began the back and forth, saying he would seek a meeting with referee Jaco Peyper ahead of the game at Twickenham to address what Jones perceives are the Wallabies' illegal scrummaging techniques.

Australia coach Michael Cheika, who can be as outspoken as his coaching counterpart and is a one-time teammate of Jones at Sydney club Randwick, hit back by saying England prop Dan Cole has been "infringing the law since his career started probably, if not all of this year."

It wasn't a new attack on Cole. He started all three of England's wins in Australia in June, when his scrummaging technique was criticized by former Australia coach Bob Dwyer. Cole and the scrum were the platform for England's historic series whitewash.

Unsurprisingly, England forwards coach Steve Borthwick defended Cole on Wednesday, describing him as an "excellent" player and a "great person to have in this pack."

England's live scrummaging session in training on Tuesday was overseen by a referee, Wayne Barnes.

The scrum debate has lit the fuse ahead of the last international of 2016, one in which England is going for a national record-tying 14th straight win.

Historically, England has had the better of the scrum against the Australians, whose pack this year has lacked the bite it had in the Rugby World Cup a year ago, when it reached the final.

"They have got some technical issues," Jones said of the Wallabies, who he coached from 2001-05. "I'm not going to sort them out for them."

Jones, who has also been highly critical of the Australia media for being "disrespectful" of England during the June tour, invited Cheika to the pre-game meeting with Peyper.

"He's running on our media, he's organizing the meetings for the ref and for the Australian team," Cheika said. "It is funny how your tune changes. In the summer when we asked for those meetings, he was blowing up and he stormed out of one."

Cheika has even said Jones has damaged his own "legacy" with his attacks on Australia.

England and Australia announce their lineups on Thursday.