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Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Friday, 12 November 2010

England can overpower electric Australia

(Top, from left Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Andrew Sheridan, (middle left) Matt Giteau (bottom left), Kurtley Beale, (bottom middle) Quade Cooper, (bottom right) James O'Connor
Can England's powerful front row of Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Andrew Sheridan (top) deny possession to dangerous Wallaby backs (from left) Matt Giteau, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper and James O'Connor

Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
Ex-England and Lions star

The story of England's forwards against Australia's backs may have become a bit of a cliché in the build-up to meetings between the old enemies, but just because it is lacking in originality doesn't make it any less true.

England will expect to dominate in the scrum - the Wallabies had a torrid time against New Zealand and an even worse time against Wales in that department, and it's not going to let up against England.

But the hosts will have to destroy the Wallabies in the scrums because even 40% possession could be enough for the visitors' electric backs to win the game - let's not forget Australia beat both Wales and the All Blacks.

That means England's backs will have to defend far better than they managed for much of last Saturday's game against New Zealand - give Australia the sort of space they gave the All Blacks and they will be ripped to shreds.

If England can get the dominance expected in the scrum it won't just earn them penalties and give them front foot ball, it will also mean the world class David Pocock will be otherwise engaged, and that Australia's tight forwards should tire later in the game.


If Wallaby open-side Pocock is having to help out his tight five then it's going to take something out of him, and that will help Lewis Moody, who I thought did really well against Richie McCaw on Saturday.

McCaw has been the best open-side for the best part of a decade and Pocock's still early in his career but it looks as though he will take over from the New Zealander as the best in the world when McCaw retires - and I expect him to quit at the top.

Pocock turns over possession on average three times a game and Australia are very damaging with the way they use turnover ball - just look what James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale combined to do against Wales.

Former England prop Trevor Woodman, part of England's World Cup-winning team in 2003, was Australia's scrum coach before joining Wasps in 2009.

He said earlier this week that the presence of Saia Faingaa at hooker in place of the injured Stephen Moore was part of the reason why their scrum went so badly against Wales and that Moore will make a definite difference at Twickenham - how much of a difference we'll have to wait and see.

England cannot afford to be complacent in this area and have to make sure they go out and do a really destructive job, because that will give the whole team so much confidence.

They will need that confidence because as a unit Australia's backs are the most dangerous in the world.

I don't think I've seen a more potent winger than New Zealand's Hosea Gear - he's just electric - but every Australian from nine to 15 is a dangerous match winner.


Fly-half Quade Cooper is a superb playmaker and there's another great playmaker outside him in Matt Giteau.

Adam Ashley-Cooper is their more direct guy and then there's the fantastic O'Connor on the wing.

He's only 20 and reminds me so much of England scrum-half Ben Youngs in his attitude and approach to the game, he just goes out and plays like he does for his club side.

Drew Mitchell is a big threat on the other wing and then there's Beale at the back, who's quick and unpredictable - they all complement each other very well.

The Wallabies execute back moves to perfection, as shown by their scintillating first try in the second Test last summer when they sprung Digby Ioane through England's back line before Giteau cruised over by the posts.

Given the way England's midfield defence performed on Saturday they are going to have to tighten up considerably.

Australia attack in a different way to the All Blacks - New Zealand tend to attack wider out whereas Australia go more through the middle.

They might change that, but generally they do a lot of moves that hold the midfield three, or try to draw one of them out.

The reason why England weren't watertight against the All Blacks was because there were too many dog-legs - defenders being drawn out of the line, creating space to attack.

Sometimes Mike Tindall got in front of Shontayne Hape, or vice versa, and at other times when Toby Flood wasn't there they were asking the inside people to cover too much.

Australia will really test England in that area.

Rocky Elsom throws a pass against New Zealand
Elsom knows when to hammer away and when to move the ball wide

They are also very good at not getting white line fever. Rather than their forwards hammering away without success near the line they are very good at the likes of blind-side flanker Rocky Elsom faking to smash it up before moving the ball on to Cooper to free the backs.

Lots of teams will practice things like that but Australia can implement it in match situations, like they did against New Zealand in Hong Kong, and it is magical.

England have to defend as a unit and go up as a flat four - something they didn't manage all the time at the weekend.

Whether they hold and drift, or blast as a blitz, they have to do it together - no dog-legs.

For England to beat Australia they will also have to cut out the unforced errors they produced in the last 10 minutes against the All Blacks, but I fancy England's chances.

I've enjoyed watching England in their past two games, and I haven't been able to say that for a long time.

They should be hurting because they could have and should have won last Saturday - I've not said that for a long time either.

England have to destroy Australia in the scrum, the backs have to take their chances in attack and they have to defend better than they have been - 100% better.

Do that, and they will win.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.

You can follow Jerry on Twitter at

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see also
Campese urges end to scrum focus
11 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
England 35- 18 Australia
13 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Moore returns to Wallabies side
11 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Hooker Hartley gets England call
09 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
09 Nov 10 |  Rugby Union

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