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So much is at stake for both Australia and England as they go head-to-head in the second encounter of the three-match tour at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
For the Wallabies, who claimed the spoils in the opening clash, they are looking to seal a series victory and get their Test season off to an ideal start. It would represent a superb result against a country they have struggled against ever since Eddie Jones took charge of the Red Rose.
In eight successive matches, they barely got close, but in Perth on July 2, 2022 they finally ended six years of frustration. That was despite being down to 14 men in the second period as they bullied England physically to deservedly go 1-0 up heading into the second international.
It is a sign that Australia are growing under the stewardship of Dave Rennie, who has brought about gradual improvements since taking the reins in 2020, but also that the tourists are very much going backwards with Jones still at the helm.
His job is not on the line at the moment, with the RFU backing their man and bizarrely insisting that this team is getting better, but you wonder whether enough dissident voices could lead to a change if these pretty dreadful performances continue.
It must be so frustrating for England fans to see a talented side not play at their potential, an issue which has been there since the end of the 2019 World Cup.
Jones has once again changed the squad in an attempt to find the right formula, with Tommy Freeman and Guy Porter making their debuts and talented young scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet taking over from Danny Care, but perhaps the Australian is not the right man any more?
England’s boss continues to change things around, from players to coaches, but at some point there needs to be progress. With Australia up to speed after a lacklustre first half last weekend and improving their team with the addition of Taniela Tupou, the Wallabies will fancy themselves to inflict more misery on the English.
They have a hugely powerful backline, with Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete and Hunter Paisami all excellent ball-carriers, and with the visitors reducing the size behind the scrum by taking out Joe Cokanasiga, the home side will look to be direct once again.
What happened in the first Test
England were left to rue an inability to turn their dominance and numerical advantage into points as Australia went away with a 30-28 victory. The Red Rose controlled the first half and also had the benefit of seeing Wallaby lock Darcy Swain sent off for a headbutt, but they could only go into the break level at 6-6. Despite being down to 14 men and seeing Ellis Genge cross the whitewash for the Red Rose early in the second period, the hosts dominated the final quarter and scored three tries through Jordan Petaia, Folau Fainga’a and Pete Samu. That sealed an impressive victory and moved them 1-0 ahead in the series, even though Henry Arundell and Van Poortvliet touched down late on for the tourists.
What they said
Australia head coach Rennie expects both teams to be much improved this weekend following an error-strewn first half in the opening Test match in Perth.
“It felt that we dipped our toe in the water in that first half, guys got a better understanding of the lift and intensity required at this level,” he said.
“I expect England to be better too, so it should be a hell of a match.”
Rennie also discussed Swain’s red card and believes players, coaches and officials have learned from the incident and what potentially led to the lock’s reaction to Jonny Hill’s antics.
“It’s surprising the first offence, the push in the face, was pretty aggressive and wasn’t seen by any officials,” he said.
“Maybe if it had have been it would have been dealt with and Darcy wouldn’t be facing the judiciary. Everyone’s awareness is a little sharper around that now.”
England boss Jones insists that debutants Freeman and Porter are ready for the rigours of Test rugby after being named to start in the second Test.
“We believe this is the future of the team going forward and we feel those players are ready,” he said. “We always try to make sure that young players are ready to play and we believe that both Guy and Tommy are ready to play.
“We’ve made the changes to the backline looking to get a bit more punch in how we play. We felt that we didn’t take opportunities as they availed themselves against Australia in the last game.
“Porter plays with a lot of punch, he takes the line on and he gets between defenders well. The way Australia defends you’ve got to be able to do that.
“Freeman finds the ball. We wanted our back three to be in the game more last weekend and we feel that Freeman is the type of guy who can find the ball.
“Both of them are even-keeled, they get on with the job. They have trained really well in the time we’ve had them.”
Players to watch
Following a superb second-half showing, Australia have kept much of the team in situ but it is interesting to see Hunter Paisami return in place of Len Ikitau. The Brumbies centre has a calf injury, which means the Reds man gets a chance back in the XV. Paisami had a storming first season in Wallaby gold but struggled in 2021 and was subsequently dropped by Rennie. However, the talented back has continued to perform in Super Rugby and the head coach will hope that he has learnt from last season’s disappointment.
His partnership with Samu Kerevi will be vital. As a combination, it is not one which particularly offers variety but, to an extent, that may not matter. Australia gained success by being direct and getting their big ball carriers over the gain line. Kerevi led the way in that regard and he was followed by the likes of Rob Valetini, Rob Leota and replacement Pete Samu.
England’s midfield defence struggled to cope while there were also gaps around the ruck which was exploited by the hosts’ forwards. Should that happen again, and this time for the whole 80 minutes, it is going to be a long evening for the tourists. Anthony Seibold always looked a strange appointment and there has certainly been a drop-off in the Red Rose’s efforts without the ball.
Jones will hope that the English-born but Aussie-raised Guy Porter can plug some of those holes after a fine season for Leicester Tigers. As the head coach says, Porter is “tough”, renowned for his work ethic and never taking a backwards step, but he is also smart. He is an excellent defender too, but you do wonder whether he has the physical attributes to star at the highest level.
Some may point to someone like Conrad Smith, whose organisational skills later in his career superseded the need for a running threat at 13, but the great All Black was also a playmaker and superb link man. Doubts remain over whether Porter can offer those traits to a backline which is struggling to fire.
One player that doesn’t lack for speed is the other debutant, Northampton Saints’ Tommy Freeman. After one Test, Jones appears to have abandoned his philosophy of having at least one bruiser behind the scrum by dropping Cokanasiga and bringing in the more fleet of foot Freeman. Capable of playing at either full-back or on the wing – where he is based on Saturday – the youngster is an exciting runner who takes good lines and is very difficult to contain when in space.
We were denied this battle in November due to Covid and injury but on Saturday Taniela Tupou and Ellis Genge will – hopefully – battle it out. They have become key cogs in their respective packs, both in their set-piece work and efforts in the loose, and are among the leading players in the world in their positions.
Tupou is a force of nature and makes an impression whenever he is on the field. Often used as an impact player off the bench, the Reds tighthead will start this weekend and will be a prominent ball carrier for the Wallabies. He is also a strong scrummager, albeit the prop still needs some improvement technically, and will look to pressure an English set-piece which faltered in the second period last week.
Genge had the upper hand over Allan Alaalatoa but the latter’s injury arguably proved to be a blessing in disguise for the hosts as James Slipper, despite being out of position, shored up the front-row. He did a magnificent job to neutralise the threat of the Leicester powerhouse and Tupou will now attempt to gain dominance up front.
If they do then it is curtains for England, considering what the Wallabies managed to do with front foot ball in the first Test. Genge, who did have a good game for the Red Rose last weekend, needs to step up even more in Brisbane. It is a tall ask for him to send Tupou into reverse, but he at least has to get parity if the tourists are to stay in the contest.
The addition of Tupou will make Australia stronger while we’re not quite sure what England are trying to achieve with some of their changes. It therefore points to another Wallabies victory, especially if they can keep 15 players on the field. Australia by 10 points.
2022: Australia won 30-28 in Perth
2021: England won 32-15 in London
2019: England won 40-16 in Oita
2018: England won 37-18 in London
2017: England won 30-6 in London
2016: England won 37-21 in London
2016: England won 44-40 in Sydney
2016: England won 23-7 in Melbourne
2016: England won 39-28 in Brisbane
Australia: 15 Jordan Petaia, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Rob Leota, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Scott Sio, 18 James Slipper, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 James O’Connor, 23 Izaia Perese
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Guy Porter, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Will Stuart, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Ollie Chessum, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Jack Willis, 22 Danny Care, 23 Henry Arundell
Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 20:00 local (11:00 BST, 10:00 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)
READ MORE: Five storylines to follow during the second Tests including South Africa’s selection and Ireland’s response
The article Australia v England preview: Wallabies to take advantage of muddled Eddie Jones selection and seal series victory appeared first on Planetrugby.com.