All you need to know about the Test between England and Australia at Twickenham
Autumn Internationals: England v Australia preview
A BT Sport poll this week to predict next year’s World Cup winners saw 38% of respondents vote for New Zealand, 31% vote for Ireland, and 22% declare for England.
If England are to tilt the numbers more in their favour, only an emphatic victory over Australia in this weekend’s final 2018 Quilter International will do.
Eddie Jones’s men have had a good autumn, despite the scrappiness of last weekend’s 35-15 win over Japan. Beating the born-again Springboks (12-11) and nearly upstaging the world champion All Blacks (15-16) has removed the demons that sprang up after a string of defeats earlier this year.
New players have emerged, none more so than loosehead Ben Moon and back-row Mark Wilson, whose 21 tackles against Japan helped keep England on an even keel. The Newcastle man looks a certainty to make the squad for Japan 2019.
The Wallabies, two places behind England at sixth in the world rankings, have a reputation bigger than recent form. Since beating Wales in Cardiff a year ago, they’ve won just four of their 14 Tests and their build-up to this match has been hampered by a sickness bug that has affected several players, including Israel Folau and Bernard Foley.
More bad news followed on Friday morning with news that David Pocock, probably the best jackler in world rugby, had failed a fitness test on a neck injury sustained in last weekend’s win in Italy. His withdrawal means there is a rare start for Pete Samu.
Australia have been defensively sound in the last fortnight, conceding nine and seven points respectively in Wales and Italy, but have spluttered in attack. Head coach Michael Cheika, who got hot under the collar last year, is feeling the heat.
As England boss, Eddie Jones has won all five previous meetings with the nation he coached for 57 Tests from 2001-05. It was the 26-16 defeat at Twickenham 13 years ago, when the Wallaby pack wilted and the match ended with uncontested scrums, that effectively led to Jones being sacked by his home country.
In the book Rugby Maverick, author Mike Colman recalls a tale Jones told about the start of the 2016 Australia-England series in Brisbane.
Jones said: “I’m Australian and I love Australia, but any semblance of a conflict was destroyed when I walked up the grandstand and sat in the box, and there was this woman sitting outside. She was immaculately dressed. She had the Yves Saint Laurent shoes on, the nice scarf, everything. And she turns after the national anthems and starts giving me the finger and an assortment of words. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not in love with Australia any more’.”
It will be a special day for a player Jones blooded in Super Rugby at the age of 18, Will Genia. The scrum-half becomes the tenth Wallaby to win 100 caps, and makes his 89th Test start.
“It will be huge, really special,” Genia said. “Everybody says it but I never thought I’d get one, let alone two, three, four, five and then 50 Tests.”
The cross-camp links continue because England attack coach Scott Wisemantel is godfather of the son of Nathan Grey, Australia’s defence coach.
What’s the big team news?
England revert largely to the team that came within a whisker of beating the All Blacks. The only unenforced change from that XV is that Jamie George now starts at hooker, with co-captain Dylan Hartley on the bench.
Courtney Lawes is shifted from six to second-row in the absence of injured George Kruis, while Chris Ashton’s calf injury means a second cap for Joe Cokanasiga, the Bath powerhouse.
Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi – last capped in March 2016 – has finally been passed fit to play after a groin injury and is named on a bench also featuring Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes, available following a six-week suspension.
Australia’s major shock is the dropping of Kurtley Beale for disciplinary reasons, with Cheika opting to retain the Matt To’omua-Foley ten-12 pairing that he deployed against Italy in Padova. Beale and veteran wing Adam Ashley-Cooper, 34, both played in that 26-7 win but have been omitted from the match-day squad for breaching team protocol.
According to rugby.com.au, the pair invited women back to their hotel after the Test in Cardiff. It’s believed one of the women was Ashley-Cooper’s sister-in-law but the squad has a strict rule that forbids guests to visit players’ hotel rooms.
There’s a first start since August for tighthead Sekope Kepu but, as mentioned, Pocock is missing, having played all but one of Australia’s dozen Tests this year.
Folau, used on the wing or at 13 in recent months, keeps the 15 shirt that he wore in Italy and wing Jack Maddocks gets a third start in the green and gold, following outings against the Boks and All Blacks in this year’s Rugby Championship.
What have the coaches said?
England head coach Eddie Jones said: “We’ve picked our best 23. They have a unique style of attack, so our ability to defend that is going to be important. We are continually working on our strengths which is our set-piece and defence, and those areas are progressing nicely.
“I’m really happy with the direction we’re going. We are developing a unique style of rugby, which is English and the players are proud to play that way.
“The leadership of the team through the co-captaincy of Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell has been outstanding. We’ve seen growth in the togetherness of the team and I think we’ve seen that in the spirit in which they’ve played.
“Australia are a traditional rival and we enjoy the occasion of playing them at Twickenham. The spirit of the fans has been outstanding.
“The atmosphere during these Quilter Internationals has been the best I’ve experienced and we encourage the fans to be at their robust best at the weekend.”
Australia defence coach Nathan Grey said: “We’ve had a really good look at what England are bringing to the table from an attacking perspective and we’ll be well prepared for what we believe their threats are and how they’re going to target us. We’re really looking to execute our defensive systems and take it up another notch.”
Any interesting statistics?
* England have won the past five meetings – an historic 3-0 whitewash in 2016, followed by wins at Twickenham on the Wallabies’ previous two end-of-year tours.
* The last encounter, one year ago, saw England record their biggest-ever victory over the Wallabies – by 30-6.
* Will Genia becomes the second Wallaby scrum-half to play 100 Tests. The first, George Gregan, scored 18 tries in 139 Tests – a figure Genia has already equalled in his 99 appearances. However, Gregan’s 68% win success rate far exceeds Genia’s 51%.
* Dylan Hartley is poised to make a record 56th international appearance at Twickenham this weekend. He is currently level with Jason Leonard on 55 appearances, with Danny Care the only other player to have notched a Test half-century at the stadium.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
The match at Twickenham kicks off at 3pm UK time on Saturday and is live on Sky Sports. There will also be live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and online, and TV highlights on BBC2 at 7.30pm.
The referee is 38-year-old South African Jaco Peyper, who was promoted to World Rugby’s elite panel in 2012. His assistant referees are New Zealand’s Glen Jackson and Frenchman Alexandre Ruiz, with South Africa’s Marius Jonker again fulfilling TMO duties.
What are the line-ups?
ENGLAND Elliot Daly; Joe Cokanasiga, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Jonny May; Owen Farrell (co-capt), Ben Youngs; Ben Moon, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Brad Shields, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson.
Replacements 16 Dylan Hartley (co-capt), 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 George Ford, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
AUSTRALIA Israel Folau; Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Jack Maddocks; Matt To’omua, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Sekope Kepu, Izack Rodda, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (capt), Pete Samu.
Replacements 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.