Rugby Union

England's Australian achievement deserves some context

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Football News

There is no doubt that Eddie Jones has elevated the level of this England side and an exciting group of young players is in place, but everyone just needs to be wary about crowning them as world beaters just yet.

Jones has done a fantastic job since taking over after last year's World Cup and really shown the worth of a true world class coach in comparison to his predecessor Stuart Lancaster who, in truth, should never have been in charge of an international rugby team.

The series win in Australia is a great achievement and as solid a stepping stone to achieving great things as there is in world rugby, but, one should read between the lines a little to consider what this victory really means in the context of world rugby.


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Sure, England have outplayed the Wallabies utilising their youthful exuberance and physicality to great effect and have deservedly won this series. However, when you look at the Wallaby team they are facing it isn't really a big surprise that they have turned them over.

The reality is that this side is a far stretch from the team that beat England with ease in the World Cup, and whilst England are an improved side from that dark time, their victory down under owes as much to the hosts struggles as their own triumphs.

The form of the Australian teams in Super Rugby this season has been fairly poor with only the Brumbies likely to qualify for the knockout phase and none of their teams are in the top seven on points gathered so far.

They have struggled to kick on since the World Cup and are suffering from a bout of injuries to key players which has certainly been a key factor in this series. Will Genia is levels above any other scrum-half in the Wallaby set up and is missing through a knee injury whilst Matt Toomua, who would certainly be in the picture to start at 12, is also absent.

Genia is the heart and soul of this side and dictates the speed and style of their play; his absence has been telling as Nick Phipps really struggled last week in a tactically poor and error-strewn performance.

Kurtley Beale and Kane Douglas have also been unavailable meanwhile David Pocock was missed hugely in the second test in where the England pack simply outmuscled the Aussies and their back row trio had minimal impact on the breakdown.

These are all huge misses for the Wallabies, particularly in the backline, where they have been found wanting tactically and creatively against England. Genia, Beale and Toomua all add huge value in the kicking game and Australia have lacked the spark in the backline that Beale brings to the party.

Big Brumbies wing Henry Speight is also out through injury and whilst Dane Haylett-Petty has shown glimpses of brilliance, his inexperience and average defensive ability has hurt the Wallabies at times.

Michael Hooper has gone through a patch of indifferent form for his franchise this season and really didn't deserve inclusion purely on form and that has shown in this series as he has not made anything like his usual impact in the loose nor in the turnover game.

Hooper and his fellow back rowers were played off the park by James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and co last week in what was a poor showing in every aspect of the game.

The lack of a true number eight in Australian rugby is also worrying as, although Pocock has done a fine job there, the inclusion of Sean McMahon there in his absence really highlighted a problem area.

McMahon is a fine talent at number seven but does not possess the size nor skill set to play at eight and he was completely out of his depth against Billy Vunipola.

Bernard Foley has also been off colour this series with some errant kicking off the tee and out of hand which has damaged his team's hopes at key times in both games.

The turnaround in the scrum from the World Cup is simply startling too; Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu dominated the England scrum in their pool match but have struggled enormously this summer, again pointing to the poor form that has engulfed Australian rugby this season.

Michael Cheika has a lot of issues to address and they will not be resolved with a win this weekend but his job might be saved with one. It is unacceptable for an Australian side to lose a home series to a northern hemisphere team and another poor showing could put his job under series duress.

Another thing to take into consideration is the fact that Australia have not played together for eight months before this series and had just two weeks preparation. England, by comparison, had two months together for the Six Nations and are a much deeper into their international year and whilst ring rust isn't much of an excuse, it has been clear that all three southern hemisphere giants have struggled to get up to pace so far this summer.

So, whilst there is every reason to be optimistic about this impressive looking England side going forward, one should not be too hasty to crown them as world beaters just yet. They are yet to play New Zealand or South Africa - the two biggest tests in world rugby - under Eddie Jones and haven't even faced a fully firing Wallaby side.

The autumn internationals will give us more of an idea where they stand in the hierarchy once the big three are into the swing of their international seasons.

Nonetheless, it shouldn't be understated what a fine achievement it is to win a three-match series in Australia and Jones should get an awful lot of credit for the way he has transformed this side both physically and mentally.

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Mike Brown
England Rugby
Dylan Hartley
James Haskell
Rugby Union
Will Genia
Australia Rugby

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