Courtney Lawes: 'Performance in second Test more important than a win for us'

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Courtney Lawes - Courtney Lawes: 'Performance in second Test more important than a win for us' - SHUTTERSTOCK
Courtney Lawes - Courtney Lawes: 'Performance in second Test more important than a win for us' - SHUTTERSTOCK

Captain Courtney Lawes admitted the performance in England’s second Test against Australia is more important than the result with Eddie Jones calling the do-or-die match “great practice” for the World Cup.

With England 1-0 down in the series, head coach Jones has handed debuts to outside centre Guy Porter and wing Tommy Freeman while giving a first start to 21-year-old scrum-half Jack Van Poortvliet. Sam Underhill replaces the injured Tom Curry with Joe Marchant and Joe Cokanasiga both dropping out of the matchday squad.

England have lost their last four matches and only managed two wins in each of their past two Six Nations campaigns, leading to widespread supporter discontent. Jones tried to insist that “Test matches are always about winning,” but also says “everything is geared to the World Cup” after picking his youngest ever backline for a major Test.

“We feel this is the future of the team; an experienced pack and a young back line that’ll take us through to the World Cup,” Jones said. “Everything is geared towards the World Cup. Always has been and always will be. But that doesn’t mean you don’t treat this game with the utmost respect.

“We’ve got 12 months to the World Cup so we’re developing a team to win the World Cup. But, of course we are preparing for this game and taking this game with the utmost importance. If you want to listen to those people saying it’s a gamble, it’s a gamble. If you want to listen to me, you’ll say it’s a judgement call, as selection always is.”

Lawes revealed that the squad have held a discussion over Jones’ decision to emphasise long-term development over short-term expediency. While appreciating that results may suffer, Lawes is convinced that England are following the right path by aiming to peak at next year’s World Cup.

“The performance is more important for us,” Lawes said. “Definitely. I’m taking nothing away from the win because we’d absolutely love to win, but developing as a team and taking us in the right direction is definitely at the forefront of our minds. We’re not going to be the final product for a little while, but we’re going to keep working hard for each other and we’re going to try and improve week on week.

“As I keep saying, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we win the series. But at the same time, yes, we’ve had the conversation that we’re making these changes for a reason. We think it’ll open up our potential and we’ll be a better team for it. Maybe not now, it’s going to take time to get there and we are going to have patience.”

Jones believes that “set-piece dominance” and getting the upper hand at the breakdown, where he expects a “different contest” under referee Andrew Brace, will be the keys to victory in Brisbane, where Australia have won their last ten Tests. But he has also emphasised that changes were needed to improve their attacking performance after struggling to break down the Australian defence in the first Test defeat in Perth.

“Porter plays with a lot of punch, he takes the line on and he gets between defenders well,” Jones said. “The way Australia defends you've got to be able to do that. His form consistently for Leicester was high-class. He plays a good, physical game and against Australia – who have a big back line – we need to be physical.

“Freeman finds the ball. We wanted our back three to be in the game more last week and we feel that Freeman is the type of guy who can find the ball.

“Jack [van Poortvliet] is an exciting young player. He's got good command of the forward pack, good communication skills, a good kicking game and a fast pass.”

Jones was tempted to give Arundell a start after he scored one try and helped create another on his debut as a replacement last week but says he is not physically ready for a full 80 minutes. “He’s still on modified training loads so when he’s able to do a full training load he’ll be eligible for full selection,” he said.

Australia, meanwhile, make seven enforced changes from the side that won the first Test 30-28 with Taniela Tupou coming in at tighthead prop.  Matt Philip replaces the suspended Darcy Swain in the second row while in the back division Dave Rennie has opted for full-back Jordan Petaia, wing Tom Wright and outside centre Hunter Paisami.

England's second Test team announcement - as it happened

08:17 AM

All eyes on Suncorp

We will have plenty more reaction to Eddie Jones' selection on Telegraph Sport for you today but that's all for now for this morning's live coverage.

You can see the full squads from both sides plus reaction by scrolling down the page.

Saturday's second Test kicks off at 10.55am and another loss will see the pressure on Jones ramped up even further with a World Cup looming next year.

07:52 AM

Thoughts on that selection?

Our rugby reporter Ben Coles remains to be convinced...

07:37 AM

England's squad for the second Test in full

07:28 AM

Some required Tommy Freeman reading

From our very own Charlie Morgan just last month - on how the Northampton man can be England's Manu Tuilagi alternative.

07:23 AM

What those back line changes mean

Joe Marchant and Joe Cokanasiga have been dropped from the matchday squad while veteran scrum-half Danny Care has been demoted to the bench.

Teenage speedster Henry Arundell will again be asked to change the game as a replacement.

07:21 AM

Reaction from the England head coach

“We have decided to make changes in our back line, they were tough calls but we feel they will strengthen the team.  There are opportunities to attack against Australia which we can take.

“We have had solid preparation this week and looking forward to an important game in Brisbane.

“This game is the perfect practice for the World Cup and our focus is putting on our best performance.”

07:15 AM

Breaking: Debuts for uncapped pair Freeman and Porter

Eddie Jones has kept faith in the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell midfield combination but there are three changes in the backline around them:

Jack van Poortvliet makes his first start after scoring off the bench last weekend, while there are debuts for Tommy Freeman at left wing and centre Guy Porter.

Freeman started at full-back in England's non-cap international humbling against the Barbarians but this is his first full international.

07:06 AM

Ten minutes or so until the England team announcement

We will update you as soon as the squad is named and then have plenty of reaction to Eddie Jones' selection.

But in the meantime, have a look at our rugby writers' picks for the Brisbane Test.

06:50 AM

Australia team news

From our man Daniel Schofield in Brisbane:

Australia have called upon 21-stone tighthead prop Taniela Tupou for the second Test against England and the “Tongan Thor” has vowed to smash Ellis Genge in Brisbane.

Tupou is one of seven changes that Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie has made from the squad that won 30-28 in the first Test in Perth.

Matt Philip replaces the suspended Darcy Swain in the second row while in the back division full-back Jordan Petaia, wing Tom Wright and outside centre Hunter Paisami all come in. Noah Lolesio is retained at fly-half having come in for Quade Cooper, who suffered a calf strain during the warm-up at the Optus Stadium.

The most eye-catching selection is that of Tupou, who missed the first Test with a calf injury. His partner also gave birth to his first son, Nela, last Friday and Rennie believes he can have an instant impact both in the loose and the tight.

“He can certainly carry, he's got good footwork and he's amazingly explosive for a big man,” Rennie said. He can certainly hike. The scrum is the big thing. He's very, very powerful. We're excited to have him back.”

06:40 AM

Good morning

Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport's live coverage of this morning's England team announcement for the second Test against Australia in Brisbane, with Eddie Jones to reveal his squad at 7.15am BST.

Flanker Sam Underhill, who is poised to replace Tom Curry in the England back row, believes the battle of the breakdown will be pivotal to levelling the series.

Wallabies openside Michael Hooper was the dominant figure in the hosts' 30-28 victory in the first Test, ruling the contest on the ground including one game-changing turnover.

Underhill insists dominating the breakdown will be key to ending England's four-match losing run.

"We controlled areas of the game pretty well for a decent chunk of the game but ultimately penalties and discipline cost us," Underhill said. "Whether the breakdown was more competitive than we thought it would be or not, we didn't adapt to the interpretation at the breakdown.

"You can't have an attack without a functioning attacking breakdown and vice versa - you can't defend indefinitely, so the breakdown is a pretty good area to target if you want to stifle an attack.

"It is always a massive area of contention, especially in Test rugby against southern hemisphere sides and especially Australia who go pretty hard at it. If you get the breakdown right everything else becomes easier.

"Hooper is obviously a big breakdown threat. It's not a case of man-marking him but as a team you are acutely aware that if he's around the breakdown it's highly likely he'll be competing. You have to shift him early because he's good over the ball."

Curry was ruled out of the tour after suffering a concussion in the first Test, his third head knock in the past six months. Underhill was sidelined for more than two months after suffering back-to-back concussions either side of Christmas. His empathy for his fellow 'Kamikaze Kid' is mixed with concern over the growing size of the collisions.

"At Test level Tom is a machine and I'm gutted for him that his tour is over early," Underhill said. "Rugby is a more physical game than it has ever been. There are big athletes who move very well and at Test level you don't have a lot of time to react. The collisions are quicker."

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