Australia go into Saturday's quarter-final with England as underdogs but Michael Cheika will be busy creating a siege mentality in the Aussie camp says Tim Cocker…
“England's real advantage is in the back division where they should have too much firepower against a disjointed Australian backline (shorn of their best player Israel Folau of course) where they've been trying to work out their best combinations during this World Cup.”
There are some serious grudge matches in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
England v Australia feels especially “grudge-y”. The historical niggle is added to by the men in charge. Eddie Jones against his countrymen and Michael Cheika as proud an Aussie as you'll find, but beginning to resemble Michael Douglas in Falling Down with his levels of belligerence. And belligerence, ironically, is a quality Australia will need on the field.
Australia's weakness at previous World Cups has been their set piece, a traditional English strength. No more. England are favourites, but will find themselves up against a gnarly pack and solid set piece.
England's real advantage is in the back division where they should have too much firepower against a disjointed Australian backline (shorn of their best player Israel Folau of course) where they've been trying to work out their best combinations during this World Cup. That said, Marika Korobeite is a match-winning talent on the wing, and absolutely someone whose opportunities England need to limit. I think it's that threat, along with that of Reece Hodge and Kurtley Beale, which is why Eddie Jones has shunted George Ford onto the bench and Henry Slade into the midfield.
A lot of attention will be on Billy Vunipola who hasn't been in full training in the build up to this match and is so important for England in winning the gain-line and making sure Michael Hooper and David Pocock spend most of the afternoon on the back foot rather being the breakdown menaces they can be. Australian fans won't know much about England's dual threat in Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. This is the biggest stage and the perfect setting for them to realise the potential they have in spades.
Speaking of the breakdown, the appointment of Jerome Garces will make the game more unpredictable as he applies the stereotypical “lassez fair” approach to the tackle area. Discipline and decision making, in the heat of battle, will be crucial.
Back to Michael Cheika, he'll be creating a siege mentality, telling his side the world and his wife is against them (I think he believes it too!). It's just ironic he'll be doing that against England, who everyone else in the World actually does love to hate.