England announced their 23 man squad at 6 am yesterday morning, but will be picking their starters later today. Below is my approximation of what England will throw at the Wallabies. If you click on the name of any of the players, a link to a YouTube highlights clip should appear in a new tab.
Controversial Hooker Dylan Hartley, who missed out on a certain starting gig on the 2013 Lions tour, will start for England to add some starch to a front row that’s been universally lauded as giant killers after embarrassing a talented Springboks scrum two weeks ago. Hartley certainly plays with a mean streak, and it will be up to the Wallabies to lift their intensity to match. England’s super athletic lock Courtney Lawes is expected to start against Australia, but will need to pass a fitness test this morning in front of Coach Stuart Lancaster. Lawes is expected to pass. England have also indicated that blindside flanker Tom Wood will return to the starting team in favour of London Wasps captain James Haskell. This is a defensive selection, and Wood’s strengths in tight will go a long way in slowing down Australian ball.
In the backline, out of form flyhalf Owen Farrell has been relegated to the substitutes bench after George Ford impressed against Samoa in his opportunity last week. England’s centre combination is undoubtedly a physically imposing defensive pairing, and with gun Tevita Kuridrani missing Australia may well struggle to get any punch through the midfield – a key area of Cheika’s game.
- Joe Marler (Harlequins)
- Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
- David Wilson (Bath Rugby)
- Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby)
- Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
- Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
- Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain)
- Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
- Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
- George Ford (Bath Rugby)
- Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
- Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby)
- Brad Barritt (Saracens)
- Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
- Mike Brown (Harlequins)
- Rob Webber (Bath Rugby)
- Matt Mullan (Wasps)
- Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
- George Kruis (Saracens)
- James Haskell (Wasps)
- Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
- Owen Farrell (Saracens)
- Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
The Wallabies in classic Michael Cheika fashion have announced their starting XV, but the composition of the bench will be left until the last possible minute. Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley earn another opportunity to start after a less than stellar showing against Ireland, and young blindside Sean McMahon rejoins the team at the expense of 23 year old Luke Jones. Tevita Kuridrani’s low grade ankle injury will keep him out of this match, and Adam Ashley-Cooper will move in to outside center to fill a big hole in the Wallaby backline.
There are some big questions that the Wallabies bench selection needs to address prior to the match. With 5 single digit cap holders injected in to the match with 15 to go, the Wallabies really need to consider where the leadership is going to come from in the final period. Michael Hooper is the Captain, but at his age he really does need the support of other senior players.
While Will Skelton provides great impact when he comes on, would Australia benefit more from having a great leader like James Horwill instead?
While Benn Robinson has 71 caps of experience, would the Wallabies benefit more from running on a more dynamic prop to replace James Slipper?
Given the likelihood this match will be won and lost upfront, would the Wallabies be better off playing a 5-2 bench split – given that Australia have two of the most versatile backline players in world rugby in Kurtley Beale and Rob Horne (already starting), could the Wallabies afford to drop Quade Cooper off the bench to make this happen? Would that be worth it?
- James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
- Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds)
- Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs)
- Sam Carter (ACT Brumbies)
- Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds)
- Sean McMahon (Melbourne Rebels)
- Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs)
- Ben McCalman (Western Force)
- Nick Phipps (NSW Waratahs)
- Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs)
- Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
- Matt Toomua (ACT Brumbies)
- Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs)
- Henry Speight (ACT Brumbies)
- Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs)