We look at what is being said and the team squads ahead of England’s clash with old rivals Australia at Twickenham on Saturday evening (kick-off 5.30pm)…
Can Tuilagi wing it for England?
Never one to abide by convention, Eddie Jones sprang a surprise when naming his England team for their second match of the autumn on Saturday.
Manu Tuilagi was named on the wing for the showdown with Australia, the first time the center has featured in the wide position since the 2014 tour of New Zealand under Jones’ predecessor Stuart Lancaster.
It was an experiment which was quickly abandoned, but England’s current head coach has now opted to start the 30-year-old out wide on the right against Australia and cited the example of France’s Gael Fickou as one he wants him to follow.
“I see a powerful player who’s probably in the best condition of his career, who will add to the ball players we’ve got inside and will finish off the movements that we have,” Jones said. “He’ll be able to roam on the field, play like a second or third centre.
“Last season, Gael Fickou played on the wing for France and was outstanding. The game lends itself to a powerhouse center so we’re looking forward to him playing there.”
Tuilagi’s selection on the wing means Adam Radwan, who made it four tries in two appearances with his score in the 69-3 win over Tonga, is dropped from the team and his move from inside center sees skipper Owen Farrell restored in the No. 12 shirt.
Marcus Smith makes a highly-anticipated start at fly-half too and Jones is eager to see how he performs against one of the leading nations after impressing against the USA, Canada and Tonga.
“Marcus knows he’s got to build his game,” Jones said. “I’ve been really impressed by him since I started working with him on a daily basis since the summer tour.
“He’s progressing in a nice way but it’s his biggest test because he hasn’t played a Tier One country yet.”
Can Australia make memory to last a lifetime?
Australia head to Twickenham aiming to end a run of seven straight defeats against England, including the 40-16 defeat in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup two years ago.
Prior to last weekend’s 15-13 loss against Scotland at Murrayfield, the Wallabies had won five matches in a row though and shown signs of improvement since the appointment of Dave Rennie as head coach.
Victory over England on Saturday would mark Australia’s first over them since the 33-13 win at Twickenham during the pool stage of the 2015 World Cup and that is something which is not lost on scrum-half Nic White.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to go and do something that not many Australian teams have done before,” White said.
“Some of our guys have never played there before, for some guys it’s been a very long time since we played there. So, what an opportunity.
“Winning at home is good, but when you do it away from home, that’s pretty special. And it’s something you remember for the rest of your life.”
A rivalry resumed
The rivalry between England and Australia is one that transcends sport and no-one knows that better than the home team’s head coach.
Hailing from Sydney and having been in charge of the Wallabies when they were beaten by England in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, Jones has a keen sense of what this rivalry is all about.
He has yet to suffer a defeat to his homeland since taking charge of the England team six years ago and has warned his side they will face a fired-up Australia team on Saturday evening.
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“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Olympics, Test cricket, rugby league – this is the game that defines their season,” Jones said.
“This is the game they want to win. We have a bit of an inferiority complex against the English, the Australians.”
Wallabies scrum-half White is wary of falling into the trap of trying to beat Jones in the pre-match psychological battle though.
“He’s the king of mind games, the type of guy you’d love to sit down, have a beer with and then talk rugby with,” White said.
England: 15 Freddie Steward; 14 Manu Tuilagi, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May; 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Tom Curry.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 Alex Dombrandt, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Raffi Quirke, 23 Max Malins.
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale; 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Len Ikitau; 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Tom Wright; 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White; 1 Angus Bell, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 3 James Slipper, 4 Rory Arnold, 5 Izack Rodda, 6 Rob Leota, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 8 Rob Valentini.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Izaia Perese.