The breakdown battle is sure to be a decisive element in this Saturday’s clash between England and the Wallabies, with David Pocock the major dangerman, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Pocock will start his third match at No 8 this year, having settled into that role with aplomb, while remaining an effective out-and-out fetcher.
The dynamic loose forward is currently ranked second in the competition in terms of turnovers won, having effected five steals in the Wallabies’ opening match.
With Pocock operating in tandem with Michael Hooper, the Wallabies have few equals in terms of their ability to dominate and disrupt at the breakdown.
England’s ability to deal with this threat and still generate quick ball will be essential if they hope to erase the horror defeat they suffered to Wales last Saturday.
The hosts made many poor decisions during the latter stages of that match, and suddenly it’s looking like England could be the team to bomb out in the Pool of Death.
In the absence of the injured Billy Vunipola, England have brought Ben Morgan back in, and there will be a massive onus on him and the likes of captain Chris Robshaw to nullify the effect of the Wallabies’ breakdown menaces.
Robshaw has faced a steady stream of criticism after England’s loss to Wales, and there is no doubt he will have a massive point to prove at Twickenham.
England have been boosted by the return of talented centre Jonathan Joseph, and with Brad Barritt returning to his preferred position at 12, they will be more of a threat on attack.
It should be an enthralling battle, but it really could be won or lost at the breakdown, where the Wallabies have the ability to wreak havoc.
POCOCK’S STATS THAT MATTER
14 – Tackles made against Fiji
6 – Carries over gainline
5 – Turnovers won
2 – Tries scored
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 24, England 18, Draw 1
At Twickenham: England 13, Wallabies 9, Draw 1
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Nick Easter, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Sam Burgess.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: James Marsh/DPPI Media