The Wallaroos assistant coach looks ahead to the World Cup quarter-final against the Red Roses

Wallaroos assistant coach Scott Fava: “The pressure is on England”

Australia v England is one of the great sporting rivalries and this weekend we’ll see the two women’s rugby teams meet in a World Cup quarter-final in Auckland.

The Red Roses are favourites to progress to the last four; in fact, they are favourites to win the whole thing – they are the world’s number one side and are on a 28-Test winning run that dates back to 2019.

Wallaroos assistant coach Scott Fava is relishing being the underdog, however, and believes the hype and expectation surrounding their opponents is actually a positive for his team.

“The pressure is on them,” says Fava, a former back-rower who won his first Australia cap against England in 2005. “They’re on that run of 28 Tests, but it’s making sure the performance is at the level it needs to be to win this World Cup. The expectation is there when you’ve won so many on the trot and it’s almost like they’re unbackable favourites, but the reality is the pressure is off us.

“When you analyse their three games in this tournament, they’ve only had one tough encounter against France. The rest (big wins over Fiji and South Africa) might not prepare them well as they think leading into this game. If we can put the pressure on at the start and be in a good position at half-time, then what happens?”

Australia got off to a brilliant start in their opening game against New Zealand at Eden Park. They raced into a 17-0 lead against the tournament hosts, scoring three tries in the first half-hour – Bienne Terita with two of them, but they weren’t able to sustain that pressure and lost 41-17.

They showed more resilience in their second two pool games, recovering from a 12-0 deficit (and two red cards) to beat Scotland 14-12 and holding off Wales to win 13-7 to book their place in the quarter-finals. And Fava, who joined the Wallaroos back-room team late last year when Jay Tregonning took over, feels that is ideal preparation for facing England.

Scotland and Wales tested Australia with their set-piece game but the Wallaroos ultimately passed those tests. England’s forward power will be a significant step up but Fava is keen to stress that it’s not necessarily about stopping that famed Red Roses maul but preventing them from having opportunities to deploy it in the first place.

South Africa conceded 20 penalties against England last Sunday, providing England with plenty of chances to kick for touch and use their driving lineout. Fava is hoping his team can show better discipline and deny England such a platform, albeit that they have double-figure penalty counts for each of their three matches so far.

“We’ve played two northern hemisphere teams and are going from Scotland to Wales to England,” he says. “Each of those teams bring another level, but we’ve come out the other side with a win.

“There’s no doubt England’s rolling maul is a real weapon of theirs, but what we did against Wales was we stopped them getting into the zone to get the rumble working. We made sure we played in their half, our big thing was our exit strategy, and Wales only had three entries into our D zone. That’s what we’re looking at, limiting those opportunities and limiting those mauls.”

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