England will be going all out for a Test series whitewash when they meet the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
No sooner had the tourists won 23-7 in Melbourne to clinch a historic series win on Australian soil and move to No 2 in the world rankings, than coach Eddie Jones was asked whether he would look to give his fringe squad members some game time in the dead-rubber third Test.
'We look forward to winning the series 3-0,' Jones responded. 'We came here to win the series 3-0 and that’s what we want to do on Saturday. The boys started talking about it on the field and we’re committed to doing it. We want to be the best team in the world. And we want to win the series 3-0. If the All Blacks were in this situation now, what would they be thinking?'
And with that Jones made it crystal clear that he wants to win every Test and that to avoid a humiliating whitewash, the Wallabies will have to beat the tourists' best in Sydney.
Michael Cheika's men will also need to find a way through England's committed defence. According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Wallabies had 72% of the possession in Melbourne, and made 501 running metres compared to their opponents' 226, yet could only score one try, from a driving maul.
England had to make an incredible 213 tackles in Melbourne, compared to the Wallabies' 62, with loose fowards James Haskell (23), Billy Vunipola (20) and Chris Robshaw (12) all putting their bodies on the line.
The big question, though, is whether the tourists can lift themselves for another big effort, at the end of a long European season, now that the series has been won.
Jones has done everything he can to ensure his team is up for the challenge. He brought legendary rugby league player Andrew Johns in for a session earlier this week, much to the delight of Owen Farrell and George Ford, who love the 13-man game.
Jones has also compared Saturday's match to a World Cup final. 'To win a World Cup, you have to win three big games in a row – the quarter-final, the semi, and then the final. It’s a great dress rehearsal for us.'
The England coach has made just one injury-enforced change to his starting XV, with Teimana Harrison coming in for the injured Haskell.
In three changes to the Wallabies lineup, Matt Toomua has recovered from a knee injury and replaces Samu Kerevi at inside centre, while Rob Simmons and Will Skelton will start in the second row.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 25, England 20, Draw 1
In Australia: Wallabies 14, England 5
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Subs (one to be left out): Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio, Greg Holmes, Adam Coleman, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, Nick Frisby, Christian Leali’ifano, Taqele Naiyaravoro.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Elliot Daly.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images