Match Preview: Australia v England 2nd Test - Green and Gold Rugby

Match Preview: Australia v England 2nd Test

Match Preview: Australia v England 2nd Test

With England drawing first blood in game one last weekend, the series heads down to Melbourne for the second installment. It’s do or die for Australia, while the tourists will be keen to keep their boots on the throats of their opponents.


Bernard Foley leaves Mike Brown to eat dirt at Suncorp Stadium

Australian fly-half Bernard Foley

The Wallabies have made a few necessary changes ahead of Saturday’s match. David Pocock suffered a fractured eye socket and is out for the series while lock Rob Simmons is out with a back injury. Pocock has been replaced by the contagiously energetic Sean McMahon, moving from the bench, while the Brumbies’ Sam Carter replaces Simmons from the extended squad.

Australia has re-jigged their front row stocks with Scott Sio bearing the brunt for his yellow in Brisbane, being removed entirely from the twenty three with James Slipper starting in his stead. Greg Holmes who started in Brisbane has been benched for Sekope Kepu at tight head, with Toby Smith as the reserve loose head. Coming into the series there wasn’t much between the several permutations of props available for the Wallabies though a front row of Slipper, Moore and Kepu is the most experienced and best placed to counter any more jiggery-pokery from the English.

Cheika has opted for the same back line as the first match after Horne was cleared following concerns over concussion. The only question was whether Christian Lealiifano might come into twelve as a second play maker but Cheika seems keen on giving the Kerevidrani (Kerevi/Kuridrani) midfield a chance to bed down.

Edit: Michael Cheika has reduced the squad to 23. Liam Gill, Wycliffe Palu and most surprisingly James Horwill miss out. Outside back Luke Morahan gets his chance for a second cap and the bench is split 5/3


Chris Robshaw has an anxious look at the scoreboard

England backrower Chris Robshaw

England are more settled coming into this test match with only two changes to their starting side from last match. Centre Luther Burrell is out of the twenty three, being replaced in the starting lineup by George Ford in fly half, meaning kicking machine Owen Farrell moves to inside centre. This isn’t a big change as after twenty eight minutes in Brisbane, this was the inside combination England ran with. Marland Yarde has also been left out of the match day squad, replaced by Jack Nowell who scored England’s final try in Brisbane from the bench.

England’s bench reverts to a six/two split, having had three reserve backs in Brisbane. Jamie George replaces Luke Cowan-Dickie as the reserve rake and flanker Jack Clifford is the extra forward, centre Elliot Daly being the other fresh face.

No real surprises here, Eddie Jones has no reason to mess with the winning formula, but the extra forward in the squad makes it obvious as to where he thinks the game will be won.

Key Matchups

The Front Rows

dan cole scott sio scrum england australia brisbane
Brisbane saw England take the game away from Australia with experienced front row play. Cheika has aimed to counter this with the most experienced front row available to him, with captain Stephen Moore the only survivor from Brisbane.

Sekope Kepu has been arguably Australia’s most influential player for the last few years, dynamite around the park, but more importantly a real anchor at scrum time. Slipper had a quiet 2015, hampered by several injuries but still contributing through the pain, he’s been surgically rebuilt and can hopefully retake the form that made him GAGR’s player of 2014.Together they have nearly one hundred and forty caps for Australia and should be familiar with the English style of “scrummaging straight”.

England are holding the aces here though. Dane Cole got a lot of attention for his destruction of Sio in Brisbane but you can’t discount Dylan Hartley’s strength at the set piece as a big reason England have improved since the world cup. Loosehead Mako Vunipola had a quiet night by his standards last weekend. I would be surprised to see that happen again, at one hundred and thirty kilograms he’s hard to ignore.

The Wallabies have enough class in their starting front row to match the English but will know they are under the microscope. If there is early ascendency to the visitors it could be a long night for the men in gold. While Polota-Nau and Holmes are solid replacements, Toby Smith won’t want to have to shore up a back peddling scrum when he gets his fourth cap. This matchup could well determine the result- will the Australians get some pride back or will it be salt in Australia’s fresh wounds?

Farrell & Ford vs Foley & the Kerevidrani

The Kerevidrani in full flight (artist's impression)

The Kerevidrani in full flight (artist’s impression)

While Brisbane saw a points decision go to Farrell as the architect (at least on the scoreboard) of England’s win , it will be interesting to see how this rivalry evolves. Brisbane saw Jones leave Ford on the bench with Farrell in ten and the big boy Burrell in twelve, only to switch things around after twenty eight minutes, bringing playmaker Ford on for Burrell.

It is unusual in professional rugby at any level to see a backline player get subbed before sixty minutes, with no apparent injury. It would therefore seem to have been a premeditated plan by Eddie jones to dramatically change England’s attack when Australia looked to be coasting. From roughly that time onwards England clawed their way back into the contest and while there’s more to it than that substitution, it’s hard not to link the two.

Foley, up to the moment when his try was disallowed, was everywhere setting up tries, linking play, everything you’d want from a ten. It also must be said that Kuridrani had as good a game as any Australian back and Kerevi, despite one glaring error had a pretty good debut and looked quite dangerous also.

I would expect Australia to come out and try and play exactly how they did in that first twenty eight minutes, flinging the ball around with players in motion all around the park. The question is whether it will work, or will Ford’s inclusion (or Burrell’s exclusion) make all the difference? Can Kerevi and Kuridrani gel into the fear inducing centre pairing Wallaby fans dream of? But perhaps most importantly for the hosts, can Foley find his kicking boots? Because Farrell looks in ominous touch and I can’t imagine him having an off night.


This is a tough one to pick. Both teams showed differing strengths in the first test- Australia looked irresistible for the first half an hour and the tries seemed to flow, from there England’s forwards dominated game slowed things down and worked over our scrum. This match will come down to which team can force their style of play on the opposition and earn the most rewards. If England can turn this into a slow-motion scrum fest they will grind out the result again.

England, one game up, have the running going into this fixture but they were fortunate to score as much as they did in Brisbane. I can’t imagine the Wallabies will give away so many kickable penalties this Saturday, nor can I imagine another comedy caper as extreme as the one that led to Jonathan Joseph’s try. I also back Foley to kick a lot better, which isn’t a big ask considering his trademark calmness under pressure.

I expect the Wallabies to come out swinging but this time land a knockout blow, learning from last weeks lessons. It will be tough, beautiful, test match rugby though so bring the esky into the lounge room because you won’t want to miss a second.

Australia by 8.


Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.

Reserves(three omitted): 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Ben McCalman , 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Luke Morahan, 24 Liam Gill, 25 Wycliff Palu, 26 James Horwill

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola.

Reserves: 16 Jamie George, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Jack Clifford, 22 Danny Care, 23 Elliot Daly.

Date: Saturday, June 18
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 20.00 AEST (11.00 UK time; 10.00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

  • Christopher

    That Brown(?) faceplant has Meme written all over it…

    • Pedro

      Yeah, it’s Brown

    • Bobas


  • Kokonutcreme

    Prior to the series I was confident of a Wallaby series win. But England seemed to be anticipating the Wallabies every move and formulate a plan for it. Now Jones has declared his hand by opting for a 6-2 split on the bench. Jack Clifford offers Jones another tactical option as he’s a faster wider ranging player than any of the starting loose forwards.

    Cheika still has to cull three from his bench and decide on where he wants the most impact.

    • Pedro

      Yeah that extended bench makes it difficult to know what’s in store. Hopefully LFG.

      • Simon

        Three dedicated opensides potentially on the field at one time. Would be great to see.

        • Pedro

          Many would consider Gill as the only dedicated openside in the squad. ;)

        • Seb V

          I definitely don’t count McMahon as a dedicated 7 hasn’t made a pilfer in his life ;)

        • Simon

          If you average him out with Gill though, they both make a normal 7’s turnover count. ;)

  • FreddietheCapitalist

    So Michael ‘can’t make my mind up’ Cheika is now resorting to a three armed Shrek like centre aka Keredvidriani? Obviously not heard that the ‘orcs on steroids’ have long since retired.

    Seriously, why is he waiting to declare his final bench? He should stop worrying about Jones’ England team and put his best team out regardless. Seems a pretty negative strategy to me.

    • Braveheart81

      It maybe suggests there is an injury cloud or two over some of the players. Horne for example needed to complete yesterday’s full contact training session successfully to finish the graduated return to play programme after his concussion. No idea if there are any other players who had to pass fitness tests.

      • Pedro

        Plus we’re waiting to hear from the irb whether the Kerevidrani can be considered as one or two players.

        • Braveheart81

          The ARU is planning to branch into film making with the conjoined twin buddy comedy, Stuck on You 2 starring Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi.

        • Pedro

          Sounds equally cringey as that air New Zealand ad where Israel Dagg “raps”.

        • Braveheart81

          Stuck on You starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear is one of the great modern buddy comedies (not really).

        • Joy

          Are we playing one man short?

      • FreddietheCapitalist

        I’d understand that if he said so – I haven’t seen anything to reflect that and comments below suggest that is not the case. If this was a business decision, Cheika would be judged as being indecisive. Looks to me like Jones has got in his head.

    • Pedro

      He made up his mind. See the squad above.

      • FreddietheCapitalist

        So Jones also picks the Wallabies now. Interesting…

  • BarneySF

    We need to play an EJ-Japan v SAF-style fast channel one ball.

    • TheMountain

      We played with more than one ball last time?

  • Brendan Hume

    Surely the Wallabies scrum wasn’t destroyed. I’d like a count on how many scrums were actually completed. Admittedly we were outplayed there in a masterclass of the dark arts but we certainly were not outmuscled. I’d back any of our front row combinations against this English one. We may miss Simmons at lock in the scrum but the front row won’t be beaten if we actually get to a contest of two packs driving forward, square and straight.

    • Pedro

      I didn’t say the wallaby scrum was destroyed, but I agree with everything else you say.

    • Simon

      I believe there was only one scrum actually completed for the whole match. We weren’t outmuscled, but according to Poite we were destroyed (9-2 penalty count, I think I heard on 360).

  • Seb V

    You “back Foley to kick better” given his calmness under pressure. Your right, he’s calm under pressure – but he’s consistently a poor goal-kicker either way. Unfortunately I believe the short stint of him kicking anything above 80% was out-of-ordinary for him, not the other way round.

    • Braveheart81

      It’s not like there are other realistic options that are significantly better kickers. We need Foley to kick better. Realistically if he’d converted Folau’s try last week (the one that hit the post) and just missed the two sideline conversions it would have been a pretty normal performance by most international kickers.

      Hopefully this week he is much better because Farrell’s form with the boot is outstanding.

      • Seb V

        Your right the problem is there are no other options. It has been a long standing problem in Aus since Burke. Foley will never be capable of being better then 80% kicker but he is the best we have. We need to look/develop some long term options.

    • Pedro

      Yeah but do you really think he’s going to kick 43% or worse? Think about it, if he made one more kick in Brisbane we would have been going for a try for the win rather than being two scores at the death. I think he’ll kick better, largely because it’s unlikely that he can kick worse.

      • Seb V

        The chances he will kick a similar amount as last week are probably similar to the chances he will kick better. So I don’t agree his odds of improving are high. But I do think your right in saying he probably can’t do any worse.

        • Pedro

          He’s kicking around 75% at super rugby which is similar to Cruden, Barrett and Sopoaga.

          I’m not saying he’s one of the wallabies best ever kickers but I’m struggling to find evidence for the level of weakness you allude to.

        • Seb V

          He’s always been a 75% kicker and its clear now he never be better then that, which is a weakness compared to Farrell, Carter, Steyn, Halfpenny. What’s hard to understand about that? To re-enforce the importance of a 80%+ kicker, Apart from NZ’s RWC11 win, look at all the last teams to win a world cup (or be ranked number 1), their contributions were significant part of the teams success. Carter, Wilkinson, Burke, Morne Steyne. The B&I Lions win over us with Half-penny. Goal kicking matters, I’m sick of it being a reason for us losing close games.

        • Pedro

          Sure Seb, but don’t take that out on me. All I was saying was that I back Foley to kick better than last week (43%), probability suggests that is the most likely scenario. You said “I don’t agree that his odds of improving are high”. That’s foolish based on your own admission that “he’s always been a 75% kicker”.

        • Joy

          You wont find one in Australia or NZ.

        • Joy

          Foley’s good compared to others in Super Rugby. Barrett is way behind and Cruden is last.

          (Sorry, didn’t get the Jaguares. The website took a dive before I wrote it down)

          Grant 83 %
          Pietersen 81
          Lili’ifano 77
          Foley 75
          Sopoaga 75
          Brummer 75
          Pisi 73
          du Plessis 73
          Marais 70
          Jantjies 70
          McIntyre 69
          Mo’unga 69
          Foudi 68
          Barrett 64
          Debreczeni 63
          Cruden 52

        • Pedro

          Nice research. I rate Foley to turn it around and Lealiifano is clearly another option.

  • Chinese Dave

    Going to be an interesting one. I’m eager to see if McMahon can rise to the level of the hype surrounding him on this site. If he can, he’s going to be bloody good.

  • mark conley

    Ahhh Farrell still there …… he won’t have a shocker …… English forwards still will be on top ….. can’t believe Aust is favourite?

    • mark conley

      goodaye TD, I thought the English pack wasn’t 100% either; apart from Coles having used his experience to stuff Sio, and the lock pinching a couple, I didn’t think Haskell or the Vunipola’s played as well as they can. Haskell’s performance over-rated methought…….. I can’t see at all how the Australian pack is back to normal, yes for Slipper and Kepu but losing Pocock replacing with McMahon, definitely not a positive move (forced i realise), Fardy and Hooper must play better I admit but Carter? no way, Horwill would’ve been, IMO, a far better move, realising i’m no Cheika. ………. Jones has had a week to get the better line-up functioning, and I can’t see 4 or 5 tries this week. Again certainly no Cheika by any means, it’s only my opinion, all the best, mark

  • Pedro

    Love your energy TD.

  • Bada_bing8

    I won’t be asking you to predict next week’s lotto numbers.

  • mark conley

    goodaye TD, I thought the English pack wasn’t 100% either; apart from Coles having used his experience to stuff Sio, and the lock pinching a couple, I didn’t think Haskell or the Vunipola’s played as well as they can. Haskell’s performance over-rated methought…….. I can’t see at all how the Australian pack is back to normal, yes for Slipper and Kepu but losing Pocock replacing with McMahon, definitely not a positive move (forced i realise), Fardy and Hooper must play better I admit but Carter? no way, Horwill would’ve been, IMO, a far better move, realising i’m no Cheika. ………. Jones has had a week to get the better line-up functioning, and I can’t see 4 or 5 tries this week. Again certainly no Cheika by any means, it’s only my opinion, all the best, mark

  • mark conley

    i forgot to add, my ‘heart’ hopes i’m wrong; my pocket on the other hand ….


Mostly behind a lens, sometimes in front of a keyboard.

More in Rugby