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England and Australia will meet in a series decider in Sydney on Saturday after Eddie Jones’ tourists clinched the second Test 25-17 at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
Here, the PA news agency examines five things we learned from the team’s penultimate match of the season.
England’s pack snarl again
The try from @bvunipola that got us off to the perfect start 👏
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) July 9, 2022
“Sleeves rolled up and gum-shields in” was how forwards coach Richard Cockerill outlined the determination for England to reassert themselves up front after fading in the first Test and his pack duly obliged with possibly their most dominant half since the World Cup. From Ellis Genge bulldozing through Michael Hooper, Billy Vunipola scattering defenders and the maul serving as a potent weapon, it was vintage forward play while it lasted and confirmed that an England pack on the rampage is a force to be reckoned with.
As he carried the fight to the Wallabies, it was a vivid reminder that a rampaging Vunipola is England’s best number eight and if he maintains the form shown in Brisbane, it is hard to see how the injured Alex Dombrandt or Sam Simmonds can oust him from the back row. There had been a concern amongst England’s management that fatherhood had blunted Vunipola’s competitive appetite, while his form also suffered because of Saracens’ time outside the Premiership, but he has re-emerged as an influential figure on this tour.
JVP a Test natural
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) July 9, 2022
A week after winning his first cap as a replacement in Perth, Jack Van Poortvliet met the biggest challenge of a rookie career with a display that blows England’s scrum-half pecking order wide open. The 21-year-old’s delivery to Marcus Smith was crisp and accurate, he kicked with precision and was willing to exploit openings when they appeared. Since the 2019 World Cup, Jones’ plans for the number nine jersey are in a state of flux with Ben Youngs, Dan Robson, Harry Randall and Danny Care involved to varying degrees, but another composed outing against the Wallabies and Van Poortvliet might be installed as starter for the autumn.
More care needed
A match marred by three heavy concussions also produced mixed results on how they were dealt with. Jordan Petaia and Maro Itoje received prompt treatment and were immediately removed from play, but the sight of a shaken Sam Underhill groggily rising to his feet following a collision with Marika Koroibete and rejoining play was wince-inducing. Even Koroibete was trying to draw attention to the condition of England’s openside and Underhill was somehow allowed to continue following a brief medical examination before being withdrawn soon after. With events unfolding at high speed, mistakes will inevitably be made, but Underhill – a player with a history of concussion – needed more decisive intervention.
— Wallabies (@wallabies) July 10, 2022
Australia have been so badly depleted by injury that their build-up to the decisive final Test will focus on juggling playing resources as much as correcting the failings that led to a 17-0 deficit inside the opening half hour. Following on from the carnage of the series opener, the Wallabies also lost Scott Sio, Jordan Petaia, Izaia Perese and Cadeyrn Neville at Suncorp Stadium and the quartet will not be involved in Sydney on Saturday. Squad depth is being tested like never before and their determination to battle until the final whistle in the face of a crippling casualty rate was impressive.