England aware of being in ‘vulnerable’ stage against Australia – Matt Proudfoot

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Matt Proudfoot insists England have drawn on rugby league’s State of Origin series to highlight their own vulnerability despite heading into Saturday’s first Test against Australia in a position of dominance.

Eddie Jones has won all eight matches against the Wallabies since becoming England head coach at the end of 2015, compiling an extraordinary record against the team he guided from 2001 to 2005.

On Sunday Jones’ entire touring party were present at the Optus Stadium – the setting for this weekend’s opener – to watch New South Wales level their series against Queensland with an emphatic 44-12 victory.

Proudfoot, England’s forwards coach, believes Australia will be spurred on by their lack of success in the fixture.

“It gives you a certain amount of vulnerability because you know the opposition is itching for your scalp,” Proudfoot said. “You’re vulnerable at stages like this.

“We went to the State of Origin on Sunday night. Queensland did really well, unexpectedly, in the first game. In the second game, it turned over.

“So when you win, you’re vulnerable because your opposition is obviously hurting and wanting to come back.

“A large contingent of the Wallabies team comes from the Brumbies and the way they have have played at Super Rugby has been a big step forward.

England v Barbarians – International Friendly – Twickenham Stadium
Eddie Jones has won all eight matches against the Wallabies since becoming England head coach at the end of 2015 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“They’ve been really competitive and that will be the mood in the Australian camp.

“There’s the cultural application from eastern Australians, how passionate they are about sport. I think that filters through all Australian sports.

“I grew up watching Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson bowling on the WACA as a South African.

“That’s evident in all Australian sport. And to sit there at the ground watching the State of Origin – I think that’s what the players took from it, how intense it was.”

Jonny May tested positive for Covid on arriving in Australia last week and must spend days in self isolation
Jonny May tested positive for Covid on arriving in Australia last week and is self-isolating (Adam Davy/PA)

For all their mastery of previous encounters dating back to when the Wallabies knocked England out of the 2015 World Cup at the group stage, Jones’ men enter the series as underdogs according to bookmakers.

Both sides are nursing three-match losing runs, however, and Proudfoot stresses the importance of making a statement in the opening exchanges that reverberate across the series.

“Success looks like getting on the front foot on Saturday. A three-Test series is a long series,” Proudfoot said.

“And the first match matters. The first contact, the first 10 minutes matter. That’s success. It’s like being in a triathlon and getting out of the water last and trying to win it – it’s tough. The first game is going to be very important.”

Jones names his starting XV on Thursday morning with Jonny May a major doubt as he continues his seven-day spell in self-isolation because of a positive test for Covid.

All 35 other members of the squad have trained fully to put England in a position of strength as they finalise plans for the main areas of contention – the back row, the midfield and back three.

Six years ago Jones masterminded a glorious 3-0 series whitewash of the Wallabies and, with 10 survivors in the 2022 squad, their experiences has been drawn upon.

“Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Maro Itoje were there and we discussed their experiences as a pack on Monday,” Proudfoot said.

“A lot of the young guys are experiencing this type of environment for the first time, so that was a really big topic – how tough the first Test was.

“We were under the pump in that match and that’s why the first half is going to be crucial for the pack to get the team on to the front foot.”

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