The Wallabies need Bernard Foley to produce another match-winning performance against England in Brisbane on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
On 3 October 2015, the flyhalf scored 28 points (two tries, three conversions and four penalties) in Australia's emphatic 33-13 World Cup victory at Twickenham. That saw the Wallabies top the Pool of Death and knock England out of their own tournament.
Eight months later, and Foley will again wear the Wallabies No 10 jersey against England, this time on Australian soil in the first of three Tests.
However, with Toulon's Matt Giteau unavailable for the June internationals and the experienced Christian Leali'ifano on the bench (having only joined the squad on Wednesday night after the birth of his first child), the Wallabies will not have a second playmaker on Foley's outside when Saturday's match gets underway. The selection of the uncapped Samu Kerevi at 12 means Foley will have to shoulder more responsibility, at least until Leali'ifano, who also provides another goal-kicking option, comes on.
Australia, of course, have not played since last year's World Cup final on 31 October, while England have put their nightmare World Cup campaign behind them with a Six Nations Grand Slam under Australian coach Eddie Jones. England beat Wales 27-13 in a warm-up Test at Twickenham two weeks ago to extend their winning streak to six, but this series, which comes at the end of a gruelling season, will provide them with their biggest challenge of 2016.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has made six changes to the team that started last year's World Cup final. Rob Horne and the uncapped Dane Haylett-Petty are on the wings in place of Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper, who are also unavailable for the June Tests, while Nick Phipps and Kerevi come in for Will Genia and Giteau at scrumhalf and inside centre respectively. There are two changes to the pack, with the uncapped Rory Arnold in for the injured Kane Douglas at No 4 lock and Greg Holmes starting at tighthead prop ahead of Sekope Kepu, who is on the bench.
Meanwhile, Jones has opted to start Owen Farrell at flyhalf for the first time this year, with Luther Burrell coming in at 12 and George Ford, who wore the No 10 jersey during the Six Nations, dropping to the bench. There was talk of Maro Itoje moving from lock to flank for this match, but he remains in the second row, with Mako Vunipola replacing the unavailable Joe Marler at loosehead prop in the most significant change to the pack.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Wallabies 25, England 18, Draw 1
In Australia: Wallabies 14, England 3
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 James Horwill, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Sean McMahon, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Christian Leali'ifano.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Danny Care, 22 George Ford, 23 Jack Nowell.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images