Analysis - England head to Melbourne in fine fettle

  • Rugby
  • Sunday, 12 Jun 2016

England's Maro Itoje (C) celebrates his teams win over Australia's Wallabies at the end of the match. REUTERS/Jason O'Brien

BRISBANE (Reuters) - Barring the first half an hour, when Australia looked like they were going to run rampant, it is hard to think how Saturday’s first test against the Wallabies could have gone much better for England.

Every public utterance from coach Eddie Jones is, of course, made with an eye on the media agenda so after the match he talked about how badly England had performed and how improvement would be necessary for next Saturday's Melbourne test.

Still, the crafty Sydneysider could not have failed to take some sense of satisfaction on Sunday after his team racked up a record points tally against the Wallabies with the 39-28 victory that kept him unbeaten in seven matches in charge.

His abrasive forwards nullified the threat of Australia's mobile back row, his replacement of centre Luther Burrell with flyhalf George Ford after half an hour improved both defence and attack, and Owen Farrell punished Australian ill-discipline almost unerringly from the kicking tee.

And although clearly Jones would not wish it upon the player, the news that Wallabies loose forward David Pocock will miss the rest of the series with a fractured eye socket can only help England's quest for a first series win Down Under.

Especially pleasing must have been the way tighthead prop Dan Cole won his personal scrum battle with Scott Sio to the extent that the Australian loosehead was sin-binned at a key stage of the match 15 minutes into the second half.

Romain Poite's idiosyncratic refereeing may have played a part in that success, as it did when Australia dominated the scrum in their 33-13 victory at the World Cup, but England will certainly feel they have the measure of Australia's set piece.


Most important for England, though, given the deep trough they have had to dig themselves out of after their humiliating exit from their own World Cup last year, was the confidence they showed in their own ability and game plan.

England tourists past might have crumbled after going two tries down in the first 30 minutes to an Australia side playing running rugby at pace and with an accuracy that northern hemisphere sides can still only dream of.

With rejuvenated flanker James Haskell and impressive young lock Maro Itoje to the fore, however, England did not drop their heads and instead worked their way steadily back into the game.

Popular wisdom had it that this was the test England had to win if they were to make a mark on the series, given Australia had not had a run out in the green and gold since last year's World Cup final.

Australia will certainly be happier to see Craig Joubert wielding the whistle in Melbourne and may ponder how Saturday's result might have been different had a Bernard Foley try not been called back for a questionable obstruction call.

Still, Jones’s Six Nations champions are very much alive and kicking heading into the second of three tests and can rarely have been in such a good place in the southern hemisphere since English rugby's annus mirabilis of 2003.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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