The tables have turned and England’s edge is in the backs rather than the forwards now, but I fully expect them to avenge the defeat at the 2015 World Cup and make it 7-0 against Australia over the past four years.


Historically, England have dominated Australia in the forwards more often than not over the past couple of decades but the teams look fairly well-matched in that area in this one. I still expect them to have a slight edge but it’s in the backs where they have the real advantage.

They have a significant advantage at half-back, where Will Genia hasn’t been playing anywhere near the level that he has done in the past and Christian Leali’ifano tends to play a bit deeper than the other fly-halves they have.

From an England perspective, I’m pleased not to see Nic White in there as he’s been hugely impressive over the course of the past year or so and he could do some real damage off the bench.

We don’t know what selection would have looked like for England against France but Eddie Jones has reverted to the Six Nations formula as opposed to the one that has been successful in the warm-up games and the first few games of the World Cup.

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It has raised a few eyebrows but it’s the right call. Ultimately, Owen Farrell is England’s leader and best player and should be playing in his best position and steering the ship from No10.

George Ford hasn’t been dropped on form because he has been playing well, but the team hasn’t been tested yet and this will be a step up. He probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to start anywhere near as much of late if it hadn’t been for Henry Slade’s injury either.

Ford is one of the best fly-halves in world rugby on the front foot but you can’t hide from the fact that he has gone missing a bit in big games in the past. The timing of the change might have surprised some but you can’t account for injuries and the midfield axis of Farrell, Slade and Manu Tuilagi was the incumbent one prior to Slade’s injury.


Of course, there will be one eye on Australia’s selection as well and, with Samu Kerevi likely to be running down the No10 channel a lot, there are question marks over Ford’s defence and this combination does look more solid defensively.

Michael Cheika might like to say that he just concentrates on his own team rather than paying attention to the opposition but he will have been analysing England in detail, especially with his defence coach, and if he hasn’t been, he hasn’t been doing his job properly.

Picking Jordan Petaia at centre is possibly an indication that he has been as well as he and Kerevi have the physical capabilities to match England’s centres. Petaia may only be 19 and this may be his first Test start at centre but he has huge potential and could be dangerous.

The other interesting pick for England is Courtney Lawes ahead of George Kruis. I know that call has always been pretty close between the two of them and Kruis often gets in because he is the lineout leader but the Wallabies lose a lineout option by selecting Michael Hooper and David Pocock together so maybe that allows Lawes to get in because of what he offers around the park.

It will be fascinating to see Sam Underhill and Tom Curry, the Kamikaze Kids as Eddie Jones has labelled them, go up against the masters in terms of a dual openside threat in Hooper and Pocock.

Their battle and the one at scrum time could be key in deciding who gets the upper hand if referee Jerome Garces enables those contests. There won’t be much communication at the breakdown as we know and it will be who adapts best that gets the better of things there.

England will stick to their power game but will be looking to use their kick-chase to put pressure on Australia’s back three, win the territory battle and force the Wallabies into errors.

Jones has won six out of six against Cheika’s Australia with England and they will be desperate to get their first win in this fixture since the 2015 World Cup. People often say history counts for nothing but it’s always there under the surface even if it isn’t mentioned all the time and there will be an air of confidence within the England team that they have done it before.

England are favourites going into the game and they have too much power and finishing ability out wide for Australia. They will win it by eight points.

WATCH: Former Australian international Matt Giteau sits down with RugbyPass in the latest episode of Rugby World Cups Memories

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