England meet Australia in a must-win second Test at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday after losing the series opener 30-28. Here, the Pennsylvania News Agency examines five talking points ahead of a game that could see the Wallabies claim the inaugural Ella-Mobbs Cup.
Eddie rolls the dice
At times, England’s selection policy under Jones seems as if it had been worked out on a roulette wheel: players spoke and took their pick, then discarded. This crazy approach produces debuts for center Guy Porter and flank Tommy Freeman at Suncorp Stadium, as well as a first start for Jack van Poortvliet, and could be the last seen of Joe Marchant and Joe Cokanasiga. It’s sink or swim for the latest batch of recruits with Jones wanting to see if they can pull it off on the test level.
“Perfect practice for the World Cup” is Jones’s way of describing a do-or-die collision with Australia that England have to win to keep the series alive and avoid a fifth successive loss. It was a jarring statement, and while it was clarified with the assurance that Saturday is of “ultimate importance”, it adds to the sense that the here and now is being sacrificed for an event that takes place every four years and is fiercely hard to win Starting with three players with a single boundary between them is a decision rooted in the future at the expense of the present.
Porter takes center stage
Freeman is an exciting prospect with the size, gas and skills to light up Brisbane from the wing, but Porter’s performance will be of great interest to Jones. The 25-year-old is expected to provide the punch in midfield that England sorely miss due to the absence of Manu Tuilagi. Leicester have benefited from his direct running and ability to break through the first line of defense in his title-winning season and at 6’2″ and 15stone 4lbs he has a physical presence. One of the great mysteries of English rugby is its inability to produce powerful crosses and Porter is the latest solution to the problem.
A front-row heavyweight clash looms as the Wallabies mainstay, dubbed the ‘Tongan Thor’, goes toe-to-toe with England’s Ellis Genge. Both are powerful carriers and influential figures for their teams. Taniela Tupou is an explosive runner despite her sheer volume, while Genge is at her best making tough yards, constantly going over the gain line. Tupou missed the first test with a calf injury, but intends to make up for lost time after promising to “crush” her opponent.
The Suncorp Factor
Brisbane is repeatedly referred to as the Wallabies’ “spiritual home” and a look at their record since England were the last team to beat them there in 2016 explains why. Australia have posted 10 wins in a row, including three against South Africa, two against France, two against New Zealand and one against Ireland. It’s a genuine strength that puffs out the Wallabies’ chest before throwing a punch, adding to the challenge facing England, who suffered their heaviest defeat in Test history at the venue – a 76-0 thrashing in 1998. .