THE only rugby punter you need to know about is Russ Petty (@RPetty80). We’ve got him on-board to tell us all about Saturday’s monumental showdown between England and Australia at Twickenham.
England v Australia | Saturday 20.00 | ITV1
Stuart Lancaster is under pressure and the media are questioning Chris Robshaw’s decision making – it’s like November 2012 all over again. Back then England rallied and beat New Zealand by 38-21 the next game. This time they know a loss against old rivals Australia would mean an early exit from a tournament they are hosting.
The defeat against Wales has led to a siege mentality from England this week and it might be that this group perform better when written off, rather than when they go into games built up as favourites.
Lancaster’s side have won four of their previous five matches against the Wallabies and the accepted view for this fixture is usually that their forward superiority will be the difference. With Michael Cheika now in charge of the visitors and Mario Ledesma having worked on their scrum, that is no longer a given when these sides meet though.
England have won 14/15 games against Australia when scoring 20 points or more compared to 4/28 when kept to 19 points or under. There will likely be plenty of helpful advice from former players and coaches about how they should attack, but their most recent success against this opponent came via a more pragmatic approach. Backed into a corner, it wouldn’t be a shock if England adopted the same tactics as they used in the 26-17 win last year.
This is a stronger Australia team than that named in 2014 though with Stephen Moore, David Pocock and Matt Giteau all back. There are seven players in the visitors’ team with 50 or more caps, compared to two in the England starting line-up. Looking at combinations, it is the same front row, back row and centres that started in the 27-19 win over New Zealand in Sydney, six matches ago.
There has been a trend of Australia struggling to score against England in the final quarter of games recently – their final points were in the 43rd, 64th, 52nd, 34th and 60th minute in the previous five clashes. However, along with improving the attitude of the pack, Cheika has also put emphasis on how his team finishes games. They’ve scored tries after the 70th minute in six of their seven matches this year.
Allowing for home advantage and the idea that England have to win while Australia get a second chance against Wales to qualify, I would prefer to take the points on offer here. Australia +3 on the handicap with Stan James it is.
England v Australia – Australia +3 handicap (10/11 Stan James)
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