England v Australia, November 17
Rowntree: It's time we beat the big three
November 16, 2012
England last beat Australia in 2010 © Getty Images
England forward coach Graham Rowntree has laid down the gauntlet to his young side and has called on the team to start collecting a few southern hemisphere scalps.
England triumphed over Fiji last weekend but it is wins over the big southern hemisphere three - New Zealand, South Africa and Australia - that will help propel the side up the IRB rankings. England have won just two of their last 10 encounters against the trio with both victories coming against Saturday's opponents. This record is a far cry from their form in the run up to the 2003 World Cup triumph which saw them go unbeaten at home for four years and 22 Tests - a record which included seven wins against southern hemisphere giants.
And Rowntree wants his team to start emulating that sort of record, starting with Australia on Saturday. "We have to start beating these teams," Rowntree said. "To be able to beat a very good and very experienced Australia team would be a significant feather in our cap.
"The rivalry is there for all of these teams coming up. They are massive challenges. We are going in the right direction and we have a good young leadership group but the proof is in the pudding and it is about time we started beating these teams in the autumn series."
Stuart Lancaster's men go into the game as favourites to complete a third consecutive victory over the Wallabies, who were thumped 33-6 by France last weekend. Australia are also beset by injuries, with key flanker David Pocock, centre Pat McCabe and lock Kane Douglas all sidelined while lock Rob Simmons is suspended.
But England are aware of how the Wallabies responded to a welter of criticism for their Rugby Championship performances by holding New Zealand to an 18-18 draw in Brisbane before flying to Europe. And Rowntree is fully aware of a possible Wallabies backlash.
"They are a cagey team, a very skilful team," Rowntree said. "You never know where the next threat is coming from so you have to have everything covered. That is what we have found in recent years. This is another big step for us this weekend."
England are expected to dominate the scrum battle, as they have in previous Cook Cup encounters, but one area the Wallabies have reinforced is the front row with the return of prop Ben Alexander.
"I don't buy into this perceived edge (we are expected to have) at scrum time," Rowntree continued. "They are a very experienced forward pack, particularly the front row. Their forwards have got three times as many caps as ours.
"In Perth in 2010 we scored two pushover penalty tries and still lost. There is a moral in that story. We have to put the same attention to all of our game."
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