Eddie Jones insists the moment has come for England to “grow or shrink” as they attempt to build an unassailable lead in their Test series against Australia.
Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday will propel the Grand Slam champions to second in the world rankings and complete the perfect start to Eddie Jones’ reign as head coach.
England have yet to post a series triumph against one of the southern hemisphere giants since summer tours comprising of three Tests were introduced in 2012, but they now stand on the brink of carving out a piece of history.
Jones knows that by humbling the Wallabies, his tourists will have taken a significant step towards becoming a genuine force in the game en route to the ultimate goal of winning the 2019 World Cup.
“Australia are desperate to win, we’re desperate to win, and this is a game where players either grow or shrink,” said Jones.
“The opportunity to create history will help us and so will the rivalry between countries.
“Being the first side ever to win a series in Australia is a great motivation as well because if you do that you’re on the walls of Twickenham forever.
“I know we’re going to step up. I know this team is going to get better and Saturday is an opportunity to do that.
“By picking the players I have, I’m showing absolute faith in them to do a job for England. We’re desperate to play well for England.”
From the moment Australia had been humbled 39-28 at Suncorp Stadium, Jones set about ensuring his players did not bask in the glory of one of the great results in Red Rose history.
His message that the performance was unsatisfactory was a reminder that the job is only half done with the Wallabies, who were playing their first game since last autumn’s World Cup final, expected to be a more potent force in the second Test.
“There have been no signs of complacency this week, the players have been pretty good. The senior players have been outstanding,” said Jones.
“We are respectful that Australia are a wounded animal and they’re going to come hard at us, but we’ve had a good preparation and we’re in a good spot to play well.
“It’s important that we play well on Saturday. If we play well then everything looks after itself.”
An ominous opening quarter in Brisbane saw Australia seize an early 10-0 lead as England struggled to adjust to the pace of facing one of the sport’s superpowers in their own back yard.
They clawed their way back into contention, but Jones admits that a similar start to the second Test could be ruinous for his tourists, who have the Grand Slam-winning 10-12 axis of George Ford and Owen Farrell restored to the starting XV.
“The first 20 minutes are going to be instrumental. We know we have to get that 20 minutes right, which we didn’t do last week,” said Jones.
“Defence intensity has to be high because Australia are going to be running from everywhere.”
Michael Cheika has stated that England were “niggly” in the first Test with elbows, shoulders and shoves evident when play stopped and Australia’s coach has devised a plan to combat any further provocation.
“We are a physical team. That’s Michael’s opinion and he’s quite entitled to his opinion,” said Jones.
“If they want to say things about us... we’ve been respectful about them, the way they play the game and the way they conduct themselves and we’ll continue to do that.
“For me, the first Test was a fantastic game of rugby and a lot of neutrals have said the same thing.
“If the series continues in that spirit, it will be a fantastic series. Michael has his opinion and good luck to him.”
Kick-off: Saturday 11am (BST).
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne.
Australia team: I Folau, D Haylett-Petty, T Kuridrani, S Kerevi, R Horne; B Foley, N Phipps; J Slipper, S Moore (capt), S Kepu, S Carter, R Arnold, S Fardy, M Hooper, S McMahon. Replacements: T Polota-Nau, T Smith, G Holmes, J Horwill, D Mumm, W Palu, B McCalman, L Gill (Reds), N Frisby, C Leali’ifano ,L Morahan.
England team: M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, O Farrell, J Nowel; G Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, D Hartley (capt), D Cole, M Itoje, G Kruis, C Robshaw, J Haskell, B Vunipola. Replacements: J George, M Mullan, P Hill, J Launchbury, C Lawes, J Clifford, D Care, E Daly.
Referee: C Joubert (South Africa).