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Battle lines are drawn ahead of England's Wallabies test

By Paul Smith
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

England head coach Eddie Jones has begun the countdown to next week’s Twickenham Test against his native Australia in typically robust manner.

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Since the former Wallabies and Japan head coach switched allegiance to England following the 2015 World Cup his adopted country has recorded seven consecutive wins over his former team.

The most recent of these took the form of an emphatic 40-16 success in the 2019 World Cup quarter-final, and Jones is keen to extend the winning sequence against the below-strength tourists.

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Dave Rennie’s Wallaby press conference

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Dave Rennie’s Wallaby press conference

Dave Rennie’s Wallabies conceded plenty of penalties during yesterday’s narrow defeat against Scotland at Murrayfield, with retirement-bound French official Romain Poite in particular finding regular fault with a front row badly disrupted by injury.

And Jones was quick to probe the refereeing angle during his most recent press conference when he responded to a question about what he expected from Australia by heaping praise on next Saturday’s referee Jaco Peyper.

“The breakdown against Australia is going to be brutal,” he said. “Rennie’s teams are always renowned for being exceptional at the breakdown, so we are lucky we have got the best referee in the world next Saturday in Jaco Peyper, who is particularly very good in that breakdown area. We are going to get a great contest.”

An Australian side already without three key Japan-based players, including influential midfielders Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi, now face a six-day turnaround before facing England where head coach Dave Rennie believes they will need to find significant performance improvement.

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“We defended really well, we created multiple turnovers when Scotland had a lot of possession, hence the reason the score was close,” he said. “We’ve got more in us. We certainly need to be a lot better and we need to be a lot better against England.”

“We didn’t play anywhere near as well as we’d like to. We’ve got to be able to build pressure for longer, and we got pinged (penalised) a bit in possession for cleaning out and various other things – we’ve got to make some shifts there.”

England will be boosted by the return of captain Owen Farrell whose Friday COVID-19 test result has been confirmed as a false positive.

Bath flanker Sam Underhill left the field at half-time during last weekend’s win over Tonga but otherwise Jones has few fitness concerns away from his long-term absentee list.

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By contrast Australia left Edinburgh with a few concerns. Jordan Petaia is expected to miss the rest of the tour following a hamstring injury while giant tight-head Taniela Tupou left the field with concussion.

This loss began the Wallaby’s scrum concerns, and unsurprisingly Rennie is hoping the 135kg prop is able to line up at Twickenham.

“He’s fine at the moment, so he’s got enough time to be available for next week, but obviously he has to go through fair protocols and find out later in the week if he’s available, Australia’s head coach said.”

Rennie declined to make a public comment on his side’s scrum issues against Scotland.

“I thought it was a bit of a mess,” he said. “We’ll feed back directly to the referees. It’s a tough area to adjudicate – as happens every week around scrum, obviously didn’t agree with a number of the decisions.”

 

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Jon 3 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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