England v Australia: SW Londoner’s three reasons to be cheerful ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015 clash

England were ten minutes away from being in a very rosy position in ‘The Pool of Death’.

For Wales, it was the ‘inferior replacements’ that made the difference.

Gareth Davies stepped in for the injured Rhys Webb and scored the crucial try. Leigh Halfpenny? Does anyone remember him?

Such was Dan Biggar’s composure under pressure, the influential, injured Welsh full-back’s name was conspicuously absent from the post-match dissection.

Whether it was lack of discipline, poor concentration, Chris Robshaw’s decision-making, or Stuart Lancaster’s selection to blame for letting a 10-point lead slip is still up for debate.

Beat Australia and the argument ends and the World Cup hosts will be odds-on to qualify.

Lose and the ramifications will be seismic.

If we, as a host nation, fail to reach the knockout stages then we’ll have the dubious honour of being the first to do so.

Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree would almost certainly lose their jobs and  ITV estimated an early English exist would reduce their advertising revenue by £1million per match.

However given Wales’ seeming inability to beat Australia – the Wallabies are unbeaten in their last 10 against the Welsh – and England doing what neither Wales nor Fiji could in claiming a bonus point against the Fijians, an England win would turn Pool A on its head again.

1. The ‘Pooper’ conundrum:

Much has been said about Australia coach Michael Cheika’s wisdom in picking twin openside flankers Michael Hooper, 23, and David Pocock, 27, dubbed ‘Pooper’.

Cheika himself has played down the selection, suggesting that as his two outstanding forwards, they pick themselves.

England gave away 12 penalties against Wales, seven of which Dan Biggar converted.

Give Pocock and Hooper a sniff at the ruck and the punishment could be more severe – turnover possession with Israel Folau on the field is a terrifying prospect for England fans.

That said Pocock’s inclusion at number eight does leave their back row unbalanced.

Although both Hooper and Pocock are good ball-carriers, neither have the ballast of Ben Morgan.

Courtney Lawes’ injury could also be a blessing in disguise; Joe Launchbury is incredibly destructive at the ruck and will be an effective counter against the Australian pair.

England will need to be infinitely more disciplined at the breakdown than they were against Wales, but with Launchbury they can maintain parity at the ruck while Morgan, who was outstanding against Australia last autumn, generates go-forward ball.

2. Australia have Israel Folau. England have Mike Brown

Israel Folau is a superstar blessed with freaky genetics and incredible humility.

He took just 13 minutes to score a memorable first test try against the Lions in 2013 and has scored 17 more in the two years since.

As brilliantly talented as the 26-year-old Australia and New South Wales Waratahs full-back is, if you were to handpick one person from world rugby to counter the Wallaby flyer, it would be Mike Brown.

The confrontational Harlequins full-back, 30, has been outstanding in both of England’s World Cup matches so far.

If his sulky post-Wales interview is anything to go by England’s rock at the back will be coming out with a major point to prove.

Brown has always been consistent under the high ball and as a fearless line of last defence he is second to none, but he is now frequently England’s best performer in the final third and if he meets his incredibly high standards, Stuart Lancaster has a perfect antidote to Folau.

3. Jonathan Joseph is back.

A lot of pressure is being lumped on JJ’s shoulders.

The 24-year-old was exceptional during the Six Nations and was integral to Bath’s resurgent Premiership season, but he did not look himself against Fiji – how much of that was down to the chest injury which kept him out last weekend is unknown.

He also has to deal with Tevita Kuridrani. The 6ft 4″ Fijian-born Brumbies centre is a handful and any residual upper body weakness will be quickly exploited.

In Joseph though, England have a player capable of creating and finishing chances against the world’s best test sides.

He is frighteningly quick. Never has the phrase ‘take off’ been so appropriate to an England player and his relationship with fellow Bath-winger Watson will be critical to the host nation’s chances.

The atmosphere in Twickenham is going to be incredible and, for all the challenges Australia present, Stuart Lancaster’s men have a history of producing their best performances in the aftermath of disappointing showings.

I for one, have confidence. I reckon England to win by ten.

Image courtesy of Arsenal via YouTube, with thanks

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