Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Aussie Pack Has Improved but They Can't Compete with Our Front Row

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Aussie Pack Has Improved but They Can't Compete with Our Front Row

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Stevens Former England prop

THE LAST game I played against Australia was the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in 2007. It embodied everything great about English rugby. We were underdogs destined to lose against a team heavily backed to reach the final.

Our defence was organised and aggressive, we were tenacious at the breakdown and, crucially, our set-piece was dominant and destructive. Our 12-10 win was possibly my best moment in an England jersey, even though I was only on the pitch for 30 minutes.

My hope this weekend is to see an England team, now battle-hardened by a difficult tour to South Africa, that will lay down a marker against the southern hemisphere. This is a team with a far superior defence and setpiece than that of 2007. A team with players who can finish like Chris Ashton and deliver like Brad Barritt. When England take on Australia, defence, set-piece and the breakdown, like any game for England, will hold massive importance. Andy Farrell [the England defence coach] will have seen how effectively the French slowed down Australia's ball. Committing only two defenders and allowing their defensive line to have width across the field.

Australia were uncharacteristically one dimensional, battering away at an unrelenting French defence. With David Pocock still injured, his replacement Michael Hooper will need to help drastically speed up the breakdown if Australia are to have any chance of multiphase rugby on the front foot.

Having seen the French game, Andy will hammer home the need to slow the ruck without conceding penalties or tying up too many defenders. And the team should employ the low leg tackle approach Andy picked up from Paul Gustard at Sarries, which allows another defender clear access to the ball without tying up any more men to slow the Wallabies ball.

The set-piece is an area the Aussies have worked on. Unlike the quarterfinal of 2007 the Australian pack are confrontational, even physical at scrum time. …

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