JON CARDINELLI looks ahead to the grudge match between England and the Wallabies at Twickenham on Saturday.
It’s been a long time between celebratory drinks for the Wallabies. Michael Cheika’s side last beat England at the 2015 World Cup.
England have beaten the Wallabies in all five encounters since that global tournament. Last year, Eddie Jones’ side smashed Cheika’s mob 30-6 at Twickenham.
The Wallabies have continued their downward spiral since that defeat. After going down 2-1 in the series against Ireland in Australia, they suffered significant losses to Argentina and Wales.
England, by contrast, have enjoyed a mini-revival in the latter stages of 2018. Not much was expected of the Jones-coached side following the 2-1 series defeat in South Africa. And yet, England managed to beat the Springboks – thanks, admittedly, to a controversial decision by the officials – and push the All Blacks close in the matches staged at Twickenham.
Despite an uninspiring showing against Japan last week, England will head into the clash against the Wallabies as favourites. Both teams should be looking to prove a point.
Another victory would hand Jones a three-from-four win-record this November. It would also give England a massive psychological advantage ahead of their meeting with Australia in the World Cup pool stage next September.
The Wallabies should be desperate to end their poor 2018 season on a high. There’s been nothing in their recent performances against Wales and Italy, though, to suggest they have what it takes to end their losing streak against England.
Much has been made about David Pocock’s neck injury, and whether it will in fact prevent him from starting. Loose forwards Pocock and Michael Hooper – or ‘Pooper’ as the breakdown combination was dubbed by the English media – caused the northern hemisphere sides a lot of problems at the 2015 World Cup. This season, however, Pocock and the Wallabies skipper have failed to spare their team’s blushes in the big contests.
It’s going to take more than a typically combative performance by Pocock – if he plays – to get the Wallabies home this Saturday. The forwards will have to fire as a unit to put the England pack, and thus the dangerous England halfbacks, under pressure.
Should they fail to do so, the Wallabies could be in for more English-style torture. Rain is expected in London on Saturday, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell testing the Wallabies back three with those pin-point box kicks and garryowens.
The situation could hardly be worse for the Wallabies. As many as 10 players – including star players Israel Folau and Bernard Foley – have been struggling with flu. It remains to be seen what sort of impact this illness will have on the final scoreline this Saturday.
According to new defence coach John Mitchell, England won’t want for motivation in this grudge match. The team will be looking to inflict further psychological damage on one of its least-loved foes.
‘I still think there’s a place for you to realise how much it means and the fact you hate coming second to somebody that you dislike,’ new England defence coach John Mitchell said recently. ‘Ultimately, you’ve got to put it into that context, but you’ve got to channel it in the right way.’
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (co-c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ben Moon.
Subs: 16 Dylan Hartley (co-c), 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Bernard Foley, 11 Jack Maddocks, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Will Genia, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jermaine Ainsley, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Sefa Naivalu, 23 Marika Koroibete.
Photo: Will Oliver/EPA