Australia and England are gearing up for a “gladiatorial” forwards battle in the second Test in Brisbane on Saturday with the clash between big props Taniela Tupou and Ellis Genge shaping as pivotal.
A 14-man Australia broke an eight-match losing streak against the English with their 30-28 win over the visitors in Perth last weekend.
With both sides making a host of changes for the second Test, the two camps see the forward battle, particularly in the tight five, as crucial.
Australian captain Michael Hooper said Friday the Wallabies, who welcome back massive tighthead prop Tupou, were ready for the challenge.
“We expect every Test match to bring a level of intensity around the set-piece and the forwards battle,” he said. “So much of that allows your backs to attack well, defend better and get easy exits out of your own zone or into the opposition’s zone.
“We need to be really on with our set-piece and that physicality battle, so we’re both trying to do the same thing.”
Tupou, who tips the scales at 135kg, missed the last half of the Super Rugby season and the first Test with a calf injury.
But he has recovered and comes in for Alan Ala’alatoa, who misses the match due to a concussion.
His opponent Saturday will be highly-rated English loosehead Ellis Genge, who was relishing the clash with Tupou.
“I love playing against the best tightheads in the world,” Genge said. “I ain’t never played against him, never met him, but I’ve seen his highlights when he was 16 and that.
“He’s a big lump, isn’t he? It’s very different, every scrum you’ve just got to work it out.”
England forwards coach Richard Cockerill predicted the battle between Tupou and Genge could decide the Test.
“[Tupou’s] exceptionally explosive,” Cockerill said. “It should be a good set-piece battle with him and Ellis, so it all sets it up for a nice tasty evening, doesn’t it?
“Let’s look forward to it – we’re an English pack that want to get in the middle of it.
“We want it to be gladiatorial, physical, we want people to come [and say] ‘that first clash it’s going to be great, let’s go and see it’. Let’s enjoy the physical parts, the feisty parts and, within the laws of the game, let’s get into it.”
England coach Eddie Jones has revamped his backline as pressure mounts on him to keep his job leading into the 2023 World Cup.
Jack van Poortvliet will make his first start at scrum-half, replacing veteran Danny Care, after scoring a late try off the bench last weekend.
Jones also handed debuts to Tommy Freeman on the left wing and Australian-born and raised Guy Porter at outside centre, in place of the under-performing Joe Cokanasiga and Joe Marchant.
Bath flanker Sam Underhill, meanwhile, was brought in for Tom Curry, who went off after a head knock in Perth and has returned home.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has made five changes, with his hand forced by injuries and suspensions after the brutal Perth battle.
Fullback Andrew Kellaway hurt his hamstring in training and has been replaced by Jordan Petaia, with the Brumbies’ Tom Wright starting on the wing.
Hard-running Hunter Paisami replaces Len Ikitau at outside centre, while Matt Philip comes in for the suspended Darcy Swain at lock.
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