Planet Rugby

Preview: England v Australia

15th November 2012 20:10


SKY_MOBILE Chris Ashton England try v Australia 2010

Strike weapon: Chris Ashton

On the back of contrasting results this past weekend, England and Australia are once again ready to collide at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.

Last week England, while not great, put 54 points on Fiji while Australia fell to an in-form France XV that was in no mood to lose the physical battle.

The Wallabies have subsequently received a hammering in more ways than one after being outplayed, out-hungered and out-muscled.

The aftermath has been brutal, but in our eyes not enough praise has been put at the door of France. They were exceptional at their set-piece, direct and intelligent in attack and utilised the Stade de France atmosphere to the best of their advantage. Few teams would have won in Paris last week.

Robbie Deans has copped most of the abuse from all angles over the past year as Quade Cooper, Alan Jones, Stirling Mortlock and most recently David Campese launched a tirade at the New Zealander, with the former Wallaby wing saying that Deans "has destroyed Australian rugby and I want him to go". Unfortunately for you David there's unlikely to be a tweak forthcoming due to the fast approaching 2013 British & Irish Lions visit to your homeland.

Warren Gatland must be licking his lips at the ongoing soap opera but also wary that the likelihood is that things will have improved by the time the Lions return from their four-year hibernation. Factor in that star players James O'Connor, David Pocock, James Horwill, Will Genia et al should have fully recovered from their respective injuries, and English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish tourists will not be facing the same limping Wallabies we see today.

Speaking of today and because of suspensions to Rob Simmons and Adam Thomson, there has been little spice between the two sides in the build-up for Saturday. Only a weak comment from Australia wing Digby Ioane about England's finishers being "pretty" has scratched the surface while Toby Flood joined in the fun by giving a glowing reference to the women of Wigan. It seems the Australian press prefers bashing its own side nowadays.

If things go to the English plan - combining a strong scrummage with the dual playmaking combination of Flood and Alex Goode to create the points - the hacks Down Under will have more energy in their fingers on Sunday morning (their time). One can't help but feel though that with last week's weakest link, Sekope Kepu, benched for the returning Ben Alexander while the sizeable Sitaleki Timani locks in following an injury, they will be more sturdy.

Consequently, if there's greater parity up front than many are predicting more emphasis will then be placed on Goode's ability to create in the first line of attack and also whether Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi can feed off each other wider out. Both teams lack in the creativity department in the centres and that has been a big concern for Australia since Matt Giteau moved on, with Ben Tapuai the latest to wear the 12 jersey under Deans. What is surprising is the decision on paper to name Nick Cummins and Ioane on opposite wings to where they play for the Force and Reds, while Berrick Barnes (usually 10/12) returns at full-back, a spot he recently vacated for fly-half or centre Mike Harris. It truly is needs must right now.

But Australia are not without hope of claiming victory at Twickenham this weekend - far from it in fact. While the English did win comfortably against the islanders, signs of rustiness due to their lack of recent action was noticeable. Now the looming question is whether the home side's gameplan kicks on to better things this week? For Australia it's more asking can they bury their Paris loss and repeat the effort that almost defeated New Zealand in Brisbane?

Ones to watch:

For England: Last weekend's performance from Alex Goode was top notch and he will again line up at full-back at Twickenham. This time though he will have a new wing to form a combination with as Chris Ashton returns from his suspension to join Charlie Sharples in England's back-three. Ashton has been working on his defence in the international camp and therefore his progress will be closely monitored, not least by the coaches but also armchair fans. Elsewhere and of course Dan Cole will be watched at scrum-time while Danny Care will hope to win his battle with Nick Phipps, which we expect him to do.

For Australia: Sekope Kepu endured a nightmare evening in Paris and has been replaced by Ben Alexander, who is back in the squad after recovering from a wrist injury. He must stand up for Australia and it is worth noting he was solid at the set-piece during the recent Rugby Championship. Therefore England might not enjoy the same dominant success as Les Bleus did while the return of Sitaleki Timani may also shore things up for Robbie Deans. Digby Ioane is a player who is not shy of an error or two so if England can get amongst the wing - using kicks in behind - the Wallabies could be in trouble. Key to their hopes will be trio Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu and Kurtley Beale leading from the front.

Head-to-head: Bandwagons are rarely as full as when scrums are discussed ahead of England v Australia. We jump aboard as it can't be ignored and won't be by the front-rows.

Recent results:

2010: England won 35-18 in London
2010: England won 21-20 in Sydney
2010: Australia won 27-17 in Perth
2009: Australia won 18-9 in London
2008: Australia won 28-14 in London
2007: England won 12-10 in Marseille (RWC)
2006: Australia won 43-18 in Melbourne
2006: Australia won 34-3 in Sydney
2005: England won 26-16 in London
2004: Australia won 21-19 in London
2004: Australia won 51-15 in Brisbane

Prediction: Australia are given a 6, 7 or 8 point handicap with the bookmakers and I feel that is spot on. England to sneak this by 7 points in a game that may be short on tries scored.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Charlie Sharples, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Mike Brown.

Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Drew Mitchell.

Date: Saturday, November 17
Kick-off: 14:30
Venue: Twickenham
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Mathieu Raynal (France)
Television match official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)

By Adam Kyriacou

Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs CastresToulouse vs Castres Preview
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Preview
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs Sharks19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Preview
Counties Manukau vs OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Preview
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Preview
Bay Of Plenty vs TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs Manawatu09:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
All times are local
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
5Leicester Tigers00