There were high hopes for Eddie Jones’ first team selection against his home nation but it is interesting that for all the sound-bites, the analogies & the staunch defence of his under-fire fly-half, Jones has gone down the tried; and to a certain extent, tested route.
Instead of going toe-to-toe with an Australian back row which has pace and power in a compact set of bodies, he’s gone for Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw and James Haskell. Not a set of rear guard forwards to be messed about with mind you, but will they have the dynamism to attack the Aussie’s main strength head-on? Many might think not.
Let me explain. Whilst the front five seemingly picking themselves at the moment, there was a suggestion things could be ‘shaken up’ at the rear of the pack–we may see that happen when the replacements make themselves known after 55 to 60 minutes–with two lock forwards on the bench, maybe this will give Jones the option to try Maro Itoje in the openside or number eight position for a period of the game. Others could struggle, as the Southern hemisphere style could benefit from these conservative selections.
I can’t see Haskell matching Hooper over the ball.
The midfield will be a pivotal battle in this game and England have maintained faith with the twinkling feet of Jonathon Joseph and the power of Luther Burrell (pictured) although the latter can produce some nice footwork at crucial times. Will it be the right combination against the bulk of Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani in the gold of Australia? We will see.
Despite the honest, almost fatherly, protection of George Ford by Eddie Jones after Ford’s horror show with the boot against Wales, he has switched Owen Farrell (pictured) in to the number 10 jersey, not only as an insurance policy and a safer pair of hands but because his form deserves it. The Aussies may target Farrell and his temperament, and he will have to show his experience gained–at still a relatively young age–in order to ignore the bait. If he does not, playing with 14 men would make the task ‘that much harder’.
Although a great many people would have liked to have seen the mercurial Alex Goode in the full back position for England, you cannot ignore that this back three does have a balance to it. The security of Mike Brown potentially unleashing the raw pace and talent of both Anthony Watson and Marland Yarde. And with Jack Nowell available to come on with a fresh pair of legs towards the latter part of the match, there is firepower there for the full 80 mins.
England’s First Test XV
England squad to face Australia: Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Luther Burrell, Marland Yarde, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley (captain), Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Matt Mullan, Paul Hill, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Danny Care, George Ford, Jack Nowell.
One thing England fans can count on – it will be a physical battle!
England face Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday June 11. Follow Last Word On Sports extensive coverage of the International Rugby season, with all full test build-up and post-game analysis.
“Main photo credit”