PREVIEW: England v Australia
WORLD CUP QUARTERFINAL: Rival coaches Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika have both sprung selection surprises heading into a “do or die” World Cup quarterfinal between England and Australia but there are sound reasons behind their dramatic decisions.
Jones has dropped in-form flyhalf George Ford to the bench for Saturday’s crunch game in Oita, with captain Owen Farrell moving from inside centre to flyhalf.
Farrell, however, has plenty of Test experience at flyhalf, where he plays for English and European champions Saracens.
By moving Farrell, Jones can pair Manu Tuilagi and the fit-again Henry Slade in midfield, a combination of power and guile he deployed during the Six Nations that also offers increased defensive solidity in an area of the pitch where Australia are strong in attack.
And should England need him to close out the match, they still have the option of bringing Ford off the bench.
“Australia defend a certain way and we believe those players can trouble their defence,” said Jones, the Wallabies’ coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup Final to England.
“Defensively we feel that 10-12-13 (flyhalf, inside centre, outside centre) combination is a strong combination.”
Jones, a consultant to the South Africa side that won the 2007 World Cup and the coach of Japan when they stunned the Springboks in England four years ago, knows better than most about the demands of knockout rugby.
And with his four-year reign as England coach hinging on the team’s progress at Japan 2019, the Australian said: “No one has won a World Cup after losing a game and there’s a reason for that.
“You know it’s do or die time,” he also told reporters at England’s hotel in Beppu.
“You see those hills at the back of us? That’s where all the samurais lived. Every time the samurais fought, one lived and one died.
“It will be the same on Saturday – someone is going to live and someone is going to die.”
With powerhouse No.8 Billy Vunipola recovered from an ankle injury, England will hope “kamikaze kids” Tom Curry and Sam Underhill can star at the battle of the breakdown against celebrated Australia duo Michael Hooper and David Pocock.
Behind the scrum, they will look to Farrell to direct operations as they try to contain the threat of Australia’s strong-running Fiji-born centre Samu Kerevi.
‘He’s a warrior’
“Owen’s got quite a big job for us. He’s captain and he’s goal-kicker,” Jones said.
“But I feel like sometimes, maybe earlier in the tournament, he spent too much time in the captaincy area and not enough on his own individual prep.
“I’ve seen a real change in that this week,” added Jones, whose side’s final pool match against France was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.
“He’s a warrior. He leads from the front. He competes, he’s tough.”
The 2015 World Cup saw an Australia side coached by Michael Cheika go all the way to the Final after they ended hosts England’s involvement at the pool stage with a 33-13 win at Twickenham.
That prompted England to bring in Jones and they have since won all six of their Tests against Australia, still coached by Jones’s former Randwick teammate Cheika.
If doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is a sign of madness, Cheika’s bold move in handing the 19-year-old Jordan Petaia a first Test start at centre is evidence of his determination to shake things up.
“He is more than ready to do this,” said Cheika, who has opted for Will Genia and Christian Lealiifano as his halfbacks, with Kurtley Beale passed fit after a head injury.
“I trust him infinitely, and that’s why he has been chosen.”
Players to watch:
For England: Captain Owen Farrell shifts from the midfield to flyhalf for this match and Eddie Jones will be wanting his playmaker to stamp his authority on the game early on. Henry Slade gets the No.13 jersey for this match and he is an exciting ball-runner out wide. The “kamikaze kids” Tom Curry and Sam Underhill are very physical players and they will look to disrupt Australia at the breakdowns and in the tackle.
For Australia: Michael Cheika has taken a gamble by playing the 19-year-old Jordan Petaia in the midfield. Petaia is an exciting prospect and it will be interesting to see if he handles the pressure. There is still some uncertainty as to who is Australia’s best flyhalf and Christian Lealiifano has a huge job on his hands trying to direct play against the old foe. Keep an eye out for Marika Koroibete, who is a devastating ball-runner out wide.
Head to head: All eyes will be in the midfield battle where two giants in the form of Manu Tuilagi and Samu Kerevi will run into each other, Don’t be surprised when Tuilagi targets young star Jordan Petaia with a few big hits. That will surely be the message from England head coach Eddie Jones.
Prediction: England will extend their dominance over Australia with a win by 10 points.
England: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 George Ford, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 David Pocock, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 James O’Connor.
Date: Saturday, October 19
Venue: Oita Stadium, Outa Prefecture
Kick-off: 16.15 (07.15 GMT; 08.15 UK & Ireland time; 18.15 AEST)
Expected weather: Rain is expected during the day with a high of 25°C and a low of 21°C. There will also be a strong breeze.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
AFP & @rugby365com