The last of this year’s rugby union Autumn Internationals, England v Australia, is set to be a thriller when it kicks off at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon.
While England’s players will be looking to extend their current run of back-to-back wins to a record-equalling fourteen, the Wallabies want to exact revenge on Eddie Jones’s men for beating them in the three test matches they played down under in June.
So will Saturday’s result delight English or Australian rugby fans – and what difficulties will each team need to overcome in order to triumph?
The 2016 Autumn Internationals – Can England’s Winning Streak Continue?
So far, the Autumn Internationals have gone well for England. They defeated South Africa by 37 – 21, were victorious against Fiji (58 – 15) and won last weekend’s tie with Argentina by 27 – 14.
The fact that the Australians were beaten by the Irish last Saturday also means that the English have reinforced their position as the world’s second highest-ranking rugby union team, increasing the gap between themselves and the Wallabies, who lie in third place.
For England, holding on to a place in the top four is essential if they want to win the most coveted of rugby union trophies, the Rugby World Cup, in 2019, although, despite their current position, there’s still no guarantee they won’t end up in a “group of death”. They will certainly be determined to triumph once again this weekend, however, so they can end the year with an unblemished record and an even stronger grasp on their world ranking.
For many, England are the favourites going into the match, but winning it certainly won’t be a straightforward task, particularly without the contribution of Billy Vunipola. The influential Saracens player sustained a knee injury in the match against Argentina and will be out of action for at least three months. Nathan Jones has been declared fit to replace him, but there’s no doubt that Vunipola will be missed.
England v Australia – Can the Wallabies Bounce Back from their Recent Defeats?
The news that such an impressive player will be absent from their opponents’ back row will surely have brought joy to the Wallabies, who are still feeling the sting from their test series defeat earlier this year.
“It was very embarrassing to lose the series 3-0 on our home soil, so we’re certainly looking forward to this one,” the Australian backs coach, and former fly-half, Stephen Larkham, told the BBC.
Although the Wallabies lost against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last weekend, they did win their three previous Autumn International matches, beating Wales by 32 – 8, Scotland by 23 – 22 and France by 25 – 23.
Writing for the BBC this week, Jeremy Guscott, the former England player, stated that Australia are “in good form” but “England’s defence in Australia, when they whitewashed them, was very good.”
“It’s going to be very close… but I think England will win,” he added.
According to Bernard Foley, fly-half for the Wallabies, however, the Aussies aren’t planning on getting caught out again.
“It’s about managing the game as well as we can, and allowing ourselves to be more accurate, certainly at the breakdown and with our starter plays, so we’re not as involved or falling into the trap of getting targeted by them,” he told the Telegraph.
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