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Guscott's analysis

Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
BBC Sport rugby union expert

I have no doubt Shontayne Hape has the ability to play for England but I just haven't seen the improvement I would have liked to have seen from him this season.

Shontayne Hape (left) shurgs off Ban Kat while playing against the Barbarians
Hape (left) will bring more power to the England midfield

I think that's partly down to the fact that his club side, Bath, started the season slowly, and also because he didn't have Butch James or Olly Barkley alongside him because they were both injured - I'm sure their presence would have helped enormously.

He's got so much to offer, being the size he is. He has reasonable pace and I know from rugby league that his defence will be rock solid and his passing ability will be better than most rugby union three-quarters, because he would have got plenty of practice at that in league.

What he struggles with is indentifying when he needs to go into contact, and when he doesn't, when he is not in possession.

Technically he's not good at rucking and mauling so I don't want to see him being involved in those parts of the game unless he's been the ball carrier.

His game awareness can be improved but I've seen glimpses of magic from him and I want to see more, and the more he plays with better players the more we're going to see the magic.

Playing alongside Mike Tindall and outside Toby Flood will give him confidence and all England have to do is use him at the right time.

Hape's ability to pass out of the tackle needs to be utilised and we've not seen masses of that so far for Bath, but I'm glad Martin Johnson has seen the potential - now it just needs time to flourish.

Unfortunately with England sometimes you don't get that time and their next seven matches are as hard as they come, even taking into account the New Zealand Maori and Samoa.

To be blunt you'll probably see a big difference between the way Australia attack and the way England attack - watch the way they use dummy runners and passes behind the back to put players in space

Hape has been preferred to club colleague Barkley, who has been starting at inside centre for Bath in the latter part of the domestic season.

That is down to the way England want to play - they want to harness his size as well as his playmaking potential.

I have no doubt about his ability and he has all the tools to become a very, very good player.

We saw towards the end of the season that Barkley's overall package, with his kicking and playmaking ability, is very good, but I just think England want that extra power in the midfield and Barkley misses out on a close call.

The choice of Hape and Tindall in the centres suggests England will play a direct game, but I hope that is not all they are thinking about doing.

It does give England the option on slow ball to use those big guys to help out the back row and the ball carriers, but I'd like to see the centres deployed in a more ambitious way than just trucking it up the middle.

You know that Tindall will run hard at gaps and arms and get you over the gainline, and that's a good basis to get England on the front foot and maintain momentum.

Then I'd like to see the ball go quickly from Flood to Hape, and for Hape to be the playmaker, either laying it off to a ball carrier or getting it out to the likes of Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Mark Cueto.

England winger Chris Ashton in action for club side Northampton
Can England bring Chris Ashton and his back three colleagues into play?

I don't want to see too many of our backs taking the ball into contact.

The way sides defend these days there often more forwards in the backline than there are backs and I'd like to see English backs running against Australian forwards.

There was a classic example of an elusive back running against forwards in the Australian Barbarians v England game in the first match of the tour.

James O'Connor, who will start at full-back for the Wallabies on Saturday, sliced between England prop David Flatman and hooker Lee Mears on his way to the second try of his hat-trick, and every team strives to get a skilful, pacy player like that running at forwards.

Despite still only being 19 he has already won 14 caps for the Wallabies and it just seems to be the Australian way - if they're good enough it doesn't matter how young you are.

Australia have been badly hit by injuries to their front row for Saturday's match and their props and hooker only have two caps and one Test start between them.

In the past you would have really feared for them because up to a couple of seasons ago Australia were seen as very inferior in the scrummaging department, but they've done a lot of work on that over the past couple of years.

They may have been decimated by injuries in the front row but we'll just have to wait and see how they go.

I'd like to think England could exploit this situation but Tim Payne's not a renowned scrummager and Steve Thompson is a ripe old age these days at 31.

Dan Cole is improving all the time and there is some good weight behind the front row in Simon Shaw and Tom Palmer, so you'd expect England to have the edge there, but whether they can really dominate the Australians seems unlikely.

It seems a bit odd that scrum-half Will Genia is on the bench for the Wallabies - if he's fit enough to do that surely he's fit enough to start.

A late injury to Matt Giteau means Berrick Barnes will start at inside centre alongside Quade Cooper at fly-half.

It is a shame we won't get the chance to see the Cooper-Giteau axis at 10 and 12, because it could have been a phenomenal combination, but Barnes is a steady performer with touches of flair.

He hasn't progressed as much as people thought he would because of the emergence of Cooper and the presence of Giteau, so this is a big chance for him to impress and force his way up the midfield rankings for the Wallabies.

Quade Cooper on the attack for Queensland
Cooper produced some magical moments for Queensland this season

Cooper starred for the Queensland Reds this year in the Super 14 and he doesn't like playing it tight.

He likes to run and be expressive, so we should see some real flair from the Australia backs, but they will also be very direct though the likes of Rob Horne.

They're a very well organised side, they always have been and always will be, and to be blunt you'll probably see a big difference between the way Australia attack and the way England attack, particularly when it gets into the three quarters.

They will have momentum and pace and watch the way they use dummy runners and passes behind the back to put players in space - then compare that to England - that could just be the difference between the two sides.

If England win this game it will be a remarkable achievement for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, England have only won twice in Australia, and secondly, the Wallabies are much higher than England in the world rankings, which shows they consistently play better.

Australia have been more disrupted by injuries than England but at home I fancy them to win - although it would be brilliant if England managed to turn them over.

Jerry was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.



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see also
Hape set for England Test debut
11 Jun 10 |  Rugby Union
Injury-hit Wallabies look vulnerable
11 Jun 10 |  Rugby Union
Aussie Barbarians 28-28 England
08 Jun 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
01 Jun 10 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
25 May 10 |  Rugby Union


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