Knockout rugby has arrived at the Rugby World Cup and the Wallabies faced old foes England in the first quarter-final.
The match in Oita sees Wallabies coach Michael Cheika looking to stop the run of six consecutive losses against former team-mate Eddie Jones’ England. Cheika’s team dumped England out of their own Rugby World Cup four years’ ago.
Since then, England has been unbeaten, and Jones will feel that he has the measure of Cheika’s Wallabies. In the lead up to the match, both Cheika and Jones spiced up proceedings with predictably provocative soundbites.
However, the only thing that matters is proceedings on the pitch come game time.
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In selecting his team, Cheika has gone for form over experience with Isi Naisarani (seven Tests) and Jordan Petaia (two Tests) starting. It suggests that the Wallabies are prepared to reward performances but also indicates that victory will have to be fashioned from something more than experience.
The Wallabies have been sporadic with their overall performances in the tournament. What will please the coach is that they have responded well when required. Both their second-half displays against Fiji and Wales demonstrate that they can match England. However, playing catchup rugby in a quarter-final could be a bridge too far.
England’s team sees Jones shuffling positions to provide what looks, on paper, like close to the best side available.
Under pressure captain Owen Farrell, looking woeful with his kicking at times moves back to fly-half while George Ford’s sound performances are rewarded with a seat on the bench.
Mako Vunipola will make his first start since May; buoyed by the extra week’s rest due to the France game being cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.
Jones’ team selections are designed to stop creativity when defending.
“Once you get to the quarter-finals, it’s about having the right mindset. We know how well we can play, it’s about us playing to our strengths and trying to take away from what Australia want," he said.
"Australia are a clever team, they will have some specific attacking strategies to play against us so we need to have a great situational awareness. We need to defend with brutality and when we have the ball we need play on top of them.”