Richard Cockerill knows the value of the forward battle ahead of Brisbane Test

·3-min read

England’s pack are seeking a “gladiatorial” contest at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday after Richard Cockerill outlined the physical onslaught awaiting Australia.

The Wallabies landed an early blow in the series by clinching the first Test 30-28 and will take an unassailable lead if they keep their foot on English throats at a ground where they have amassed 10 successive victories.

Eddie Jones’ tourists crumbled in the final quarter at Perth’s Optus Stadium and Cockerill is determined for a traditional pillar of strength to reassert itself.

Richard Cockerill is ready for a battle of the forwards
Richard Cockerill is ready for a battle of the forwards (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We are very much sleeves rolled up and gum-shields in. We are coming here to win the game and we are very much up for the battle,” forwards coach Cockerill said.

“The forward battle is going to be key and let’s look forward to it. We’re an English pack and we want to get in the middle of it.

“It’s about making sure that the battle of wills is really strong and we make sure that we don’t blink first.

“Last Saturday we got what we deserved in the end, so we’ve just got to be better at what we do, be more consistent and do it more often.

“We want it to be gladiatorial. We want it to be physical. That first clash is going to be great. Let’s go and see it. That’s what the game is all about.

“Let’s enjoy the physical parts, the feisty parts and – within the laws of the game – let’s get into it.”

England will hope Ellis Genge can set the tone
England will hope Ellis Genge can set the tone (Ashley Western/PA)

The collision between props Ellis Genge and Taniela Tupou was already shaping up to be the pivotal duel even before Australia’s explosive tighthead lit the fuse by declaring the rivals are united by a desire to “smash” each other, adding that “I want to give it to him”.

Combative Leicester captain Genge sets the emotional intensity for England and acts as the heartbeat of their pack, while a player dubbed the ‘Tongan Thor’ performs the same role for the Wallabies.

“Tupou has not played for a little while so he’d better turn up and perform if he is going to start challenging Ellis before the game,” said Cockerill, referencing the calf injury that forced Australia’s tighthead to miss the first Test.

“When Genge gets the ball, they are going to want to whack him. When Tupou gets the ball, we are going to want to whack him.

“Tupou is exceptionally explosive with ball in hand. It should be a good set-piece battle between him and Ellis. It all sets it up for a nice, tasty evening.

“Ellis will get on with his game. We know those battles are going to be crucial. The physical battles up front are always crucial. We look forward to it. Bring it on.”

Cockerill was part of the team that crashed to England’s heaviest ever Test defeat in a 76-0 mauling in 1998 that was the lowest point of an event dubbed the ‘Tour of Hell’.

The former Leicester hooker says he has “deleted that from my memory”, although he recalls that the Australia supporters whose task it was to perform press-ups whenever a try was scored “soon got bored of doing press-ups”.

Suncorp Stadium is considered the ‘spiritual home’ of the Wallabies and their 10-Test winning run includes victories over New Zealand, South Africa and France. Cockerill, however, insists there is no mystery to the venue.

“It is just a game. It is just a pitch. Ninety per cent of our lads wouldn’t even know about their record. In fact, I didn’t even know. We just get on with the game,” he said.

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