Rugby Union

How will England beat Australia to stay in the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

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England suffered a late defeat against a ravaged Welsh outfit last weekend. In the pool of death, every result is under the microscope, and losing one game, or even a bonus point can see your side to an early exit.

The performance itself gave few clues that England were a side that might not make the knockout stages, but equally it didn't display them as potential winners either.

To avoid their worst World Cup finish ever, England will need to beat a strutting Australian team. There are a number of things they will need to put right before achieving that feat.


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Set Piece

Against Wales, England looked to have improved their scrum and lineout compared with recent poor form; but Australia will be another proposition again.

They controlled a Fijian pack that gave England multiple issues in game one. Despite Will Skelton going off with an injury against Uruguay, the Wallabies have one of the heaviest scrums in the competition and are no longer the whipping boys in that department.

At lineout time as well they are more than capable of competing for the turnover ball.

In the final minutes against Wales, England opted for a catch and drive over a kick at goal. They threw to the front with no movement on the ground and gave the Welsh an easy platform to drive them into touch. This showed a lack of confidence in one area that has so long been a strength.

England cannot afford to have such doubts going into this must-win fixture - whether personnel needs to change is a matter of much debate.


A lot of the headlines before round two centred around the backline selections that Stuart Lancaster made. While the two additions filled roles rather well in controlling the game and nullifying the Welsh midfield power game, the defensive stalwart Brad Barritt was found wanting.

Despite being included to sure up the defence, it was a reckless decision to fly out of the line that commenced England's capitulation.

England will want to win, and win well against the Wallabies and that will mean a return to a more attacking outfit. A backline that sees Ford reinstated and Farrell as a ball playing 12 should provide the in-form wingers with more opportunities and more time.

Scrum half selection also needs to be examined. Ben Youngs has been inconsistent for much of this year, and with multiple kicking options in the backline already, what does Richard Wigglesworth offer that Care, or Dickson, or Simpson do not?

England look most dangerous with high tempo, running threat at the fringes.

Also in the forwards - decisions need to be made about getting the correct balance of ball carrying, effective breakdown operators, and set piece prowess. Without a true Openside in the squad, and unknown quantities at Hooker, the choices may be limited.


The really alarming thing about the recent English performances has been the variety of the problems. Sometimes set pieces work, others they fall apart. Sometimes they carry over the gain line, others they don't. Sometimes the breakdown intensity is adequate, others it is not. 

England seem capable of fixing individual problems, but at the detriment of something else.

To go any further in this tournament, they will need to get it all right at once. Also, they will need to get it right for the full 80 minutes.

They weren't perfect for the first hour against Wales but had they continued in that vein, they would have won comfortably. If you switch off for ten minutes against Australia, they have more than enough strike power to punish you.

Ball Carrying

This overlaps the previous two points. England do have a largely offloading pack. Lawes has underrated soft hands, as does Launchbury, and Robshaw's trademark is the one-out offload.

There is not a plethora of powerful gainline runners to set the platform for the rest of the team. The responsibility lies heavily on the Number eight to get the team on the front foot.

For so long it was a tossup between two outstanding carriers in Morgan and Vunipola; but at the wrong time, one got injured, and the other lost form. Vunipola is effective when he goes forward, but he seems low on confidence at the moment and is looking to offload too often.

Morgan stepped up to the starting berth but had an anonymous performance in the opener against Fiji.

Both players need a clear directive on their role and to go out and execute, whether from the opening whistle or from the bench. If they can put England on the front foot, then a passing midfield will have a field day with the likes of Watson and May out wide.


Against the Aussies there will be no more crucial facet of play than the breakdown. Robshaw and whoever partners him at Six will need to be omnipresent to dull the potency of Hooper and Pocock.

To win this game England will need to secure their own ball and recycle possession quickly, and also disrupt the Australian phase play. With the strike runners Australia have, they will open holes if given enough uncontested phases.

This has been an area of particular poverty for England, and with the controversial exclusion of breakdown exponent Steffon Armitage, it is essential for the whole squad to step up hit rucks with the intensity that the other top nations do.

That isn't just about beating Australia, but the rest of the teams at the World Cup should it come to it.

If England can get these things right, and be clinical in their execution to keep points ticking over, they will stand a strong chance on Saturday in their biggest test as a team to date.

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Rugby Union
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