Thursday, December 2

Itoje and Farrell excited for England’s renewed lineup for Australia clash | Fall Internationals


TOAs every resident of the Australian Outback knows, you can never be completely sure what is hiding under the seat of the outdoor dunny. Eddie Jones is currently experiencing a not-too-different feeling of unease ahead of England’s long-awaited Twickenham rendezvous with the Wallabies, praying there are no more Covid ‘surprises’ lurking to test his team’s already exposed undercarriage. .

Losing a prominent mainstay, Joe Marler, on a positive Covid-19 test is unfortunate. Losing a second, Ellis Genge, can still cause a serious problem if something were to happen to Bevan Rodd without a cap from Sale or Trevor Davison from Newcastle before the start of teatime. A couple of days ago, England were licking their lips at the prospect of crowding into a depleted Australian front row. Now all of a sudden the Ugg boot is on the other foot.

It will certainly be a huge request for the previously low-key Rodd to emulate the destructive impact that Sale’s other loose head, Andrew Sheridan, used to have at this encounter. Twice, at Twickenham in 2005 and in the World Cup quarter-finals in Marseille in 2007, he created such carnage that a generation of Wallabies forwards was traumatized. If Jones wants to generate more antics before the game, he should throw Sheridan, 42, in an XL tracksuit and invite him to join the England warm-up.

More feasible, perhaps, is to rally the remaining players, assuming there is no more positive evidence lurking in the bushes, and tell them to ignore the recent history of this encounter. Jones’ England have won seven consecutive Tests against Australia and outside of the World Cups, there has only been one Wallabies win at home or away since June 2010. Furthermore, since Jones took over in November 2015, England He has only failed once to add 30 points to his compatriots.

This, however, is an increasingly reconfigured side of England. If someone had predicted even a week ago that the home team would line up against Australia with Manu Tuilagi on the wing and Rodd on the front row, even Jones would have raised an eyebrow in curiosity. By also entrusting Marcus Smith with the number 10 jersey, there is a new focal point. While there is a real sense that something exciting is brewing, it remains to be seen if the amber nectar will be completely flawless from the get-go.

Harlequins rising star Marcus Smith will start mid-flight.
Harlequins’ Marcus Smith will start as a fly-half and form a midfield partnership with Owen Farrell. Photograph: David Rogers / Getty Images

Maro Itoje, prepared to lead the team on the occasion of his 50th call-up for England, also believes that the visitors are now a different proposition. “Now they are a better team… we need to have a good head set. In my experience, the team that focuses the most on past results will suffer during the match. If we look at past games thinking that we will win, then we will be in trouble. We have to see this game as a new opportunity, attack it and have the mentality to go after them. “

Australia, on the other hand, will be very interested in playing the role of spoiler. If they had Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi on board, they would be even more optimistic. But with Kurtley Beale at full back and prominent Michael Hooper to keep England honest in the meltdown, there is theoretical hope, especially if they get off to a good start and Scott Wisemantel, part of England’s inner sanctuary not too long ago, has provided some useful tactics. advice.

But what if Smith, Owen Farrell, Henry Slade, Tuilagi and Jonny May get a clean ball off the front foot and the readjusted jazz ensemble combines like Jones hopes it will? Even Farrell, who came back from last week’s false positive to wear 12, seems to be expecting great things and clearly doesn’t share Jones’s dislike for hyping up talented youngsters.

“Probably the most special thing is his ability to unlock a game on his own,” Farrell said of Smith. “His ability to control a game and his team, but with the keenness to open a game in the blink of an eye, hopefully he will carry on. He has done very well in training; As for being himself and getting his game out on the field, I don’t think that’s something people need to worry about. “

Coming from seasoned Farrell, set to play his 100th international, including his six Lions Test appearances, it’s a drum roll. For some time to come, a capacity crowd from Twickenham will head to the stadium with a greater sense of anticipation. Will it matter if England narrowly lose but show a freedom of attack that accelerates the team’s development at the 2023 World Cup? Not in the larger scheme of things.

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However, when it comes to Anglo-Australian relationships, old habits are hard to break. Farrell, for example, has fond memories of his father, Andy, participating in ding-dong league battles between Great Britain and the Kangaroos and, even with an Australian as head coach, can still feel the hairs on his neck stand on end. . “It has always been a massive Test Match. There is a lot of rivalry there, so we are looking forward to it. This is a great, great game … it feels like this during the week, regardless of people’s nationality. Everybody can’t wait. “

His Saracens’ teammate Itoje feels the same way. “England v Australia in any sport, be it cricket, rugby or drinking beer, it’s always pretty intense and the fans let you know.” Itoje acknowledges that it would be hard for him to be chosen in his country’s drinking XV – “I could be No. 23 for that team” – but on the pitch it feels like a fizzy English performance is bubbling underneath. If Covid allows it, according to.


www.theguardian.com

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