We take a look at four of the key areas England can look to dominate in a bid to claim victory over the Wallabies during the June test series…
1.In the line out
The combination of an unsettled lock pairing and playing two opensides in the back row mean that the Wallabies may struggle to impose themselves on the line outs. Meanwhile England could potentially have Joe Launchbury, George Kruis and Maro Itoje all competing in the line out should Jones opt to move the young Saracens forward to the blindside as is being rumoured.
Although the Wallabies aren’t going to roll over at the line out, given the incredible performances by Itoje and Kruis during the Six Nations, not just in terms of securing their own line out ball, but also stealing opposition ball, it is easy to see how England can gain the upper hand in this particular area of the game.
Should the England pack find they have ascension at the line out, it is not out of the question to imagine them kicking to touch on a regular basis safe in the knowledge that they have a good chance of claiming the Wallabies lineout ball. This would help keep Michael Cheika’s side pinned back in their own half, particularly given the ability of George Ford and Owen Farrell to accurately place kicks.
2.At the gainline
Whilst David Pocock and Michael Hooper could find themselves having a field day at the breakdown with England once again looking unlikely to select a true scavenger of an openside, it could hand England the advantage in terms of getting over the gain line due to the size advantage in their back row.
We have all seen how well Billy Vunipola played during the Six Nations, however he is also likely to be supported by the likes of Joe Launchbury and Maro Itoje who are both accomplished ball carriers, with the Wasps man in particular impressing recently against Wales. This is also not forgetting the potential power of Ben Te’o in midfield should he be selected.
So whilst England may largely concede the breakdown to ‘Pooper’, if the big ball carriers can get over the gainline on a regular basis, it will make it harder for the Aussie flankers to get to the breakdown and slow the ball down. It will also give the likes of Danny Care and Ben Youngs more opportunity to spot gaps in the Wallabies defence as it realigns.
Although England’s back line has been much maligned in recent years, Eddie Jones in fact has a number of exciting strike runners he can call upon to take advantage of broken-field play or to find gaps in the opposition line. The likes of Jonathan Joseph and Antony Watson in particular have shown just how dangerous they can be ball in hand.
In contrast, whilst the Wallabies backline if full of talent, they don’t have the same blistering pace that Joseph and Watson bring to the game. This means that if England can make dents up the middle with their big ball carriers, they can get it wide quickly where their faster backs can take advantage of the slower Wallabies wingers.
It also means that the England defensive line can afford to play a little narrower knowing that they have to focus on combating the power of players like Folau and Kuridrani rather than worrying about being ghosted by speedy wingers. It may also force the Wallabies to hold players back to ensure England don’t kick over the top for Joseph and Watson to chase, thereby thinning their first line of defence.
4.Experience of winning
Whilst the Wallabies may have somewhat humbled during their last encounter (the World Cup), the two teams have fared very differently since the turn of the year. Although this will be the first time the Wallabies have played an international game since the World Cup, the Australian Super Rugby sides have had a pretty tough time of it in the competition so far.
In contrast, not only have England recently claimed their first Grand Slam since 2003, a large section of the squad is also made up of Saracens players who have just completed their first ever domestic and European double. This will certainly give a boost to England who will come into the series confident in the knowledge that they know how to win tough games.
In contrast, not only have the Australian Super Rugby sides struggled for form so far this season, but many of the key internationals who have experience of winning big games will be unavailable for the series having moved to clubs in Europe since the World Cup. Although it is far from a given, this contrast in form could just given England the upper hand.