England wary of wounded Australia
This year’s Cook Cup, accordingly, looks certain to continue its tradition for shaping both teams’ future direction, with 2015 World Cup destinies hanging on the outcome. Both teams want to finish in the top four in the rankings by the end of the autumn series when the World Cup draw is made. England are fifth going into today’s game having been pushed out of the leading quartet last weekend. The calculation today is simple: if England beat the Wallabies they go above them and into one of the coveted spots, at least until next weekend’s games. For Stuart Lancaster, then, as much as Deans, England v Australia is pivotal.
The past 25 years have already delivered some delicious golden memories, from the rousing 1988 win under Will Carling and Andrew’s air-punching delight in the 1995 World Cup quarter-final, to a certain drop-goal by Jonny Wilkinson in 2003 and Andrew Sheridan’s muscular triumphs in 2005 and 2007. If the English make less noise about the 76-0 defeat in Brisbane in 1998, it is because it still hurts.
It is fair to describe the Wallabies as reliably resourceful foes. Lynagh, thankfully on the mend following a life-threatening stroke earlier this year and back with the Sky Sports team covering this month’s internationals, compares the situation now to the early 1980s when the Wallabies toured more in hope than expectation.
“We’re back to the days when we might expect to win only 40 per cent of the ball,” said the former outhalf. “You had to be skilful and chance your arm in the backs because you had to make the most of the ball you did get.” Only when the Ella brothers, David Campese and Nick Farr-Jones shared a dressingroom did the pendulum swing towards Australia.
Training every day
“I’ve spoken to Stuart Barnes and he said they only met up on the Friday afternoon. We were training every day, were fitter, more skilful and more organised. That’s why we won. I had the same feeling in 1987. Only in 1988 did you start to think: ‘This England team is a little bit different.’”
Lynagh, furthermore, reckons England still need “a tearaway number seven” if they aspire to long-term glory. He also likes the look of the Gloucester outhalf Freddie Burns, who fits the preferred Wallaby blueprint of smart footballers. How does it feel to play against such opponents? “Even if we watched all their moves from last week or the Rugby Championship, they’ll have new moves against us and new structures,” says England’s Toby Flood,
So which Australia will we see? Lynagh points out Wallaby teams “very rarely put in two poor performances in a row.”