Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell set up crucial victory for England

Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell set up crucial victory for England
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England claimed a famous victory over the Wallabies in Brisbane to set up a thrilling decider in Sydney next weekend. In assessing that, it’s clear Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell led the way with their leadership.

Yes, it wasn’t pretty but, it was never going to be given what was on the line for both teams. If England had lost then Eddie Jones would have probably lost his job. What a difference, 80 minutes can make as England now advance to Sydney looking for a series win. Lawes and Farrell were superb as were the England pack, who won the collisions and the set-piece battle.

Charlie Inglefield dissects England’s renaissance and looks ahead to the decider in Sydney.

Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell step-up

England desperately needed their experienced men to step up in Brisbane. Lawes and Farrell did exactly that. This was never going to be an attractive match which is exactly the way Lawes and Farrell like it. 19-0 up and then 22-17 in the second half with the Wallabies well on top, Farrell stepped up and controlled the match whilst Marcus Smith was in the sin-bin. It was Farrell who looked the more creative out of the partnership with Smith, including a delightful chip to Jack Nowell that England should have scored off. He was metronomic with the boot and back to his grizzly best in defence.

Courtney Lawes has been around even longer than Farrell in an England shirt. Debuting back in 2009, Lawes has had his fair share of injuries, and yet here he was completing another mammoth 80-minute performance. In rugby league, they call it the tough carries – carries that you have to make coming off your own line with a wall of opposition tearing into you. Lawes was England’s focal point in that regard – time and again he took the ball into contact allowing England to reset and clear their lines. Lawes and Farrell showed just why they are still at the forefront of England’s 2023 World Cup plans.

Dominant England pack

Billy Vunipola and Ellis Genge were not far behind Lawes, as England’s pack gained revenge on their Australian counterparts at Suncorp. The hype and talk before the game between Genge and the ‘Tongan Thor’ Taniela Tupou added flavour to the forward battle. But it was Genge who won the bragging rights. Genge smashed into Wallaby captain Michael Hooper, who was sent hurtling back, setting the tone in the first few minutes. Genge then won a scrum penalty and England were up and running.

Vunipola had another industrious 80 minute performance to suggest that he is getting back to something like his best. England’s forwards looked like they were back to their 2019 Rugby World Cup form. It bodes well for Eddie Jones and for England’s visit to Sydney next week.

Debutants go well

Eddie Jones was a man under immense pressure these last seven days. He deserves the plaudits for sticking by his eccentric selection policy of bringing in the inexperienced trio of Jack Van Poortvliet, Tommy Freeman and Guy Porter all playing their part in the victory.

Van Poortvliet in particular deserves credit at scrum half although he had his forwards to thank for an armchair ride in the first half. Whisper it quietly but England may have found their starting scrum half.  Van Poortvliet’s box kicking was excellent and when a rare gap opened up, he was not afraid to have a dart.

Tommy Freeman was largely consigned to chasing box kicks and clearing up at the back but he did it well. It would be great to see his running game in Sydney if he keeps his place. Guy Porter was solid in defence and took some really tough carries when coming out of England’s twenty-two. Harry Arundell and Will Joseph came on in the final few minutes and now know what is like to win in an England jumper. Hopefully in Sydney these youngsters will have a few more chances to showcase their running skills.

England’s attack needs to come out in Sydney

If there was a criticism of England in the second test it was again their disjointed attack. Marcus Smith had an off-night and it was Owen Farrell who looked most likely to prize open the Wallaby defence. It was a match for the forwards to take centre stage but questions still remain around England’s attacking strategy. Lawes and Farrell, England’s two most senior leaders have to find the keys to unlocking England’s attack in Sydney. The partnership of Farrell and Smith was better in terms of controlling the game than Perth but there was little creativity out wide.

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For all of England’s dominance up front, Australia showed again that with limited opportunities they could still come away with points. England’s quest to ignite their backline remains very much a work in progress.

Third Test means fans ready for a Sydney ‘thriller’

For once Eddie Jones, England’s under-pressure coach can rest a bit easier this week. It was such a huge game for everyone associated with England rugby. Whether this was the defining game for Jones in turning his team around for next year’s World Cup, we will have to see. The bottom line is that England earned the right to stay in the series next week. Eddie Jones and his management team deserve great credit for the way they prepared England since the defeat in Perth.

England were brave and aggressive in Brisbane and reverted back to their traditionally strong set-piece – and it worked for them. It would have been hugely deflating for England rugby if they had to go to Sydney with the series lost. Eddie Jones has more than likely saved his job no matter what happens in Sydney.

It will be an absolute thriller and the perfect scenario for rugby’s neutrals. Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell; outstanding at Suncorp, need to lift their troops for one last battle to close out what has been a tough season for England rugby. More importantly, if they win in Sydney, England and Jones’ renaissance will firmly be back on track.

 

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