England head coach Eddie Jones has warned his side that Australia, on the back of a truly dismal season, will be intent on “putting everything right” in their final action of the year.
The Red Rose are looking to complete 2018 with a third win from four Quilter Internationals – a welcome turnaround given their own turgid form previously – when they face their old rivals at Twickenham this afternoon.
The 15th anniversary of England’s World Cup final win over Australia was marked earlier this week but this current Wallabies team is currently nowhere near being able to challenge for the 2019 showpiece.
Remarkably, they have lost 10 of their last 14 Tests and are in a messed-up state, more so after it was confirmed yesterday their world-class openside David Pocock is now ruled out due to a neck injury.
Coach Michael Cheika also revealed he had dropped experienced backs Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper for today’s game after it emerged they invited three women to their hotel room following the 9-6 defeat to Wales a fortnight ago.
Resurgent England, therefore, are clear favourites to retain the Cook Cup they have held since 2013, their only defeat against Australia in that period being the crucial 2015 World Cup pool loss at HQ.
However, Australian Jones, who coached his home country from 2001 to 2005, knows the Wallabies will be clear in mind about what a surprise victory this afternoon could do.
“They can go on to the beach and be kings of the southern hemisphere,” he said, clearly attempting to take some of the pressure away from his own side.
“That’s how it is. This is going to be their best performance of the year, the game they traditionally want to win against the old foe, the Mother Country.
“It’s at Twickenham, it’s their last game of the year, and Will Genia is winning his 100th cap, so they’ll be up for it.
“All previous form goes out the window and it will be all about what happens (on Saturday).
“They’ll be up for it because it’s England. Australia-England is an old, consistent rivalry for Australia and they like nothing better than to beat England at Twickenham. Traditional rivalries still exist because I think they still mean something.
“History dictates a lot of what we do. History dictates that Australia-England is a pretty special rugby match. They’ll see this as a chance to put everything right.”
Since replacing Stuart Lancaster at the end of 2015, Jones has won all five meetings including a 3-0 series whitewash Down Under in 2016, and knows where Australia can be targeted.
This is going to be their best performance of the year, the game they traditionally want to win against the old foe, the Mother Country. It’s at Twickenham, it’s their last game of the year, and Will Genia is winning his 100th cap, so they’ll be up for it.Eddie Jones
“Bully is not a good word these days; If I say bully I’ll get called up before Human Resources,” said Jones, perhaps more wary of how his pre-match promise that England would “smash” Japan a week ago considerably backfired, given the hosts trailed at the break before eventually spluttering home.
“We’d certainly like to dominate them. The English set-piece is an important psychological area of the game and we get confidence from dominating that area.
“And we take confidence away from Australia.”
Cheika described the actions of Beale and Ashley-Cooper as a “small error of judgement” and added: “It’s a relatively minor team rule. It could be compared to not making curfew or being late to train.”
It is believed one of the women who visited the team hotel in Cardiff was Ashley-Cooper’s sister-in-law, but Cheika insisted the pair’s punishment was essential to build a winning culture.
Both players featured in last week’s win over Italy before this indiscretion was raised by senior players.
“Obviously there is disappointment and they are disappointed too,” said Cheika.
“They were very apologetic, realised their error and have been trying to help the other players get ready for tomorrow’s game.
“If we want to compete with the best, all the small shortcuts have to be gone, on and off the field.”