Powerful England eye free-flowing Wallabies
November 11, 2010
England's Andrew Sheridan will reacquaint himself with Australia on Saturday © Getty Images
England and Australia renew hostilities at Twickenham on Saturday with Martin Johnson's side hoping for further joy after overturning the Wallabies in Sydney in June.
Australia's scrum woes resurfaced against Wales in Cardiff last weekend but in pulling out a 25-16 win thanks to the long-range attacking prowess of their backline they underlined their status as world rugby's great entertainers.
Nevertheless England, fresh from a mixed performance against the All Blacks, will see a giant bullseye on their pack and front-row in particular.
Their big hope of a result lies with their bruising forwards and the Wallabies need to step up their game in that department - perhaps taking a cue from their dirt-trackers, who were solid throughout when beating Leicester 26-15 in midweek.
England - Player to Watch: All eyes will be on the hulking frame of loose-head Andrew Sheridan given his previous history against the Wallabies and after Wales took apart the Australian set-piece last weekend he could be in for another successful afternoon.
England - Team News: Northampton skipper Dylan Hartley takes over from Steve Thompson at hooker in the sole change from last weekend's loss against the All Blacks.
Australia - Player to Watch: Kurtley Beale is in red-hot form and the Australian fullback will be hoping that his pack can provide a platform for his raids from deep. He was on the scoresheet last weekend as the Wallabies proved that they need only a second to hurt their opponents from their own 22.
Australia - Team News: Like England, the sole change to the Australian strating XV comes at hooker, where the added physicality of the Brumbies' Stephen Moore is a welcome addition. Huia Edmonds takes over from Saia Faingaa as Moore's cover on the bench.
Key Battle: It's one of rugby's classic battles as the brutish forwards of England go up against Australia's exuberant backline. The Wallabies love to play and if they can win their share of possession then they will take on England's pedestrian midfield at every opportunity. Scrum and lineout will be major worries though, and England will be confident that they can strangle the life out of the game.
Trivia: The Cook Cup, contested by England and Australia on a home and away basis, is named after Captain James Cook and was crafted from crystal by Royal Doulton in London. It was first played for in 1997 - Australia drew first blood after a 25-6 Aussie Stadium win was followed up by a 15-15 draw at Twickenham.
Stats: England will be missing their highest points-scorer against the Wallabies this weekend as Jonny Wilkinson remains sidelined by injury. In 11 Tests he has slotted 114 points, 80 more than his nearest rival Jon Webb.
"We should have finished it. We didn't execute it well. Would Australia or New Zealand have scored that? They probably would." - England manager Martin Johnson reflects on Shontayne Hape's missed try against New Zealand.
"Steve's a 50 Test-plus player, so he brings with him a wealth of experience. He's played at Twickenham on a number of occasions - including last year, as has our starting front-row. We have 10 players returning from the corresponding fixture last year and that experience is invaluable." - Australia boss Robbie Deans.
Prediction: It's going to be nip and tuck but England showed in Sydney in June that with a dominant set-piece they can pick the Wallabies off. This Australian side is a different beast to six months ago, though, and if England are to pull off back-to-back wins their pack will need to come to the party in a big way.
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