Rugby Union

How England's defence is crucial to stopping the Australian threat ahead of second test

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Football News

Despite a victorious first test match, England will be under no illusions that serious improvements are required to secure a series win, against what will be an Australian side seeking revenge.

With Australia posing problems for England with the ball in hand the English defensive line needs to address how Australia look to exploit space.

England got off to a far from a convincing start as the hosts scored two tries in quick succession that lead to the bold early substitution of Luther Burrell. With George Ford returning to fly half and Owen Farrell to the centres, England's defence looked more assured, however Bernard Foley was still able to link with Israel Folau and Tevita Kuridrani to create problems for England.


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The first try saw a mismatch where Folau recognised England prop Mako Vunipola opposite him and eased through the defensive line, forcing England to scramble their defence in an attempt to prevent Australia from scoring.

The Wallabies did score, despite having no overlap as Anthony Watson evidently didn't trust Luther Burrell to have his inside covered and thereby committed to the tackle and allowed Michael Hooper to walk over in the corner.

Similarly, Owen Farrell was caught out of position as he rushed out of the English defensive line - appearing to not trust that Burrell had Foley on his inside covered - stepped in and created a massive gap for the talented Folau to exploit. This could be attributed to a lack of cohesion as Farrell has built a partnership with Ford and a lack of game time playing alongside a new centre meant England defensively looked disjointed.

Following Burrell's substitution, England's defence looked more assured, that was until Hooper's second score. The visitors' defence were too tight allowing key man Folau to get outside of the covering England player and create a two on one situation for Hooper to score in the corner.

This looks like a tactic Australia will plan to use again as Folau provides a real threat out wide, forcing players to commit when he has the ball in hand - a crucial area England need to address ahead of the next test match.

Australia, however, will aim to keep England's players honest and stop them from simply drifting out to stop Folau in the wide channels. This is where the abrasive outside centre Kuridrani is utilised. If his opposite man Jonathan Joseph pushes out wide, Foley is then able to put the powerful centre into space as was seen with Australia's fourth try.

Foley is good enough to exploit space anywhere with the ball in hand. England therefore, must defend as one solid unit, trust their inside man, but more importantly defend much tighter before drifting out wide to stop the talismanic Folau in the wide areas.

If England are successful in achieving that defensive discipline, a series win in Australia is inevitable and the progression of Jones' side will have elevated to a new, even more exciting level.

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Jonny Wilkinson
Owen Farrell
England Rugby
Rugby Union
Australia Rugby
IRB Rugby World Cup

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