At the AAMI Park in Melbourne England have the opportunity to take the test series. If you'd have dared to have predicted that six months ago then people might have politely questioned your sanity. However, the fact of the matter is that Eddie Jones' England have all of the ingredients required to win this test match and in doing so would rub salt into an open Australian wound and make history.
Without question we'll see a more cohesive Australian side and one that's fired up to right the wrongs of Brisbane. In the opening-test Michael Cheika's men were always going to be a little rusty but now they have got 80-minutes of test rugby and an extra week of training under their belts. The head coach hasn't given his props any opportunity to redeem themselves instead they've been immediately replaced and Stephen Moore will be throwing into his familiar Brumbies second row partnership which should shore up their lineout. Needless to say with a test series on the line I expect to see Australia to play a full 80-minutes akin to the opening 15 in which they were so impressive in Brisbane but it will be up to England to see if they can gain improvement up front.
England's 39-28 victory was the perfect result to start the series but in terms of a performance it was one that Eddie Jones wasn't happy with. Instead of telling his team how brilliant they were he calmly acknowledged the result and then reminded them that there were a number of areas that weren't up to scratch. First and foremost England needed to ensure that from minute one they know exactly where they need to be defensively and don't give Australia room to move. Although Michael Cheika hasn't added another playmaker into his back line from the start, he's got the option on the bench and Israel Folau is lethal. England have to be switched on from the off because with a test series on the line giving Australia a two-try head start would be almost suicidal.
Alongside rock solid defence England need to replicate the physical intensity that they showed in Brisbane because that set the platform for everything positive that we saw. James Haskell needs to repeat his super-human efforts, there's no doubt that Chris Robshaw will work himself into the ground and Billy Vunipola needs to bring his game up to the level of his back row colleagues. If he does that then this will provide England with more opportunities going forwards for the back line to exploit. Finally without David Pocock on the field the trio should have a slightly easier time at the breakdown, for no-one can fill Pocock's shoes completely, but they can't afford to take their eye off the ball in that area.
Earlier this week when Eddie Jones was asked if his young players will step up and deliver in Melbourne he was honest in his assessment of what he thinks will happen;
'We'll find out... I wouldn't have picked them if I didn't think they were ready for it. By picking them I'm showing absolute faith in them to do a job for England.'
Clearly England's head coach cannot be 100% certain that every man will embrace the pressure that this second-Test puts on them however he's showing full confidence in his charges. Eddie Jones is a master of man management and his knowledge of how to handle the Australian media as well is coming to the fore. Externally, and I suspect internally, he is giving all of the right messages and pushing all of the right buttons. The Australian's confidence in his side will fuel their own self-belief and the manner in which he's handling everything that's being thrown at him by the Australia media is leading the way for his charges.
The final point I want to raise is the impact that England's bench could have on this fixture. We all know that the starting XV will play at the required tempo and intensity and then with the likes of Danny Care, Jack Clifford and Elliot Daly there are players to raise the tempo again. Although many are saying that Alex Goode should be on the bench I believe Elliot Daly is right for this test match. The 23-year-old provides the flexibility to play almost anywhere across the backline and his 50m boot be could be vital in the latter stages of what is likely to be a close and tense test match.
Down Under it's been an intense week of build up, Australia have upped their game off he field and England will be ready for them to do so on it. England's scrummaging, the respective sides' levels of 'desperation' to win, the state of the pitch and referee Craig Joubert are just a few areas that have been dissected and discussed until the cows come home. However we're at the point now where the talking stops and the rugby starts. England have everything that they need to take the test series today however this is sport and as we all know anything can, and probably will, happen.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 1 James Slipper, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 3 Sekope Kepu, 4 Rory Arnold, 5 Sam Carter, 6 Scott Fardy, 7 Michael Hooper, 8 Sean McMahon Replacements: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau 17. Toby Smith18. Greg Holmes 19. Dean Mumm 20. Ben McCalman 21. Nick Frisby 22. Christian Leali'ifano 23. Luke Morahan
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 6 Chris Robshaw, 7 James Haskell, 8 Billy Vunipola Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Elliot Daly.
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