England vs. Australia Rugby 2013: Autumn International Prediction and Preview
Starting this month’s autumn internationals with a bang, England and Australia headline this weekend’s November series opening at Twickenham.
Elsewhere, Japan and New Zealand warm up for their European trials in Tokyo, but it’s really Saturday’s London encounter that draws attention as the outstanding showdown of the weekend, particularly when the two lineups are examined.
Squads have been named, surprise selections scrutinised and all that’s left now is to see whether it’s Stuart Lancaster or Ewen McKenzie who has made the best of their respective batch.
In what’s set to be another titanic encounter between two teams that have produced some blockbuster displays in recent years, read on for a prediction and preview of how things will play out.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 2
Time: 2:30 p.m. Local Time (GMT)/10:30 a.m. ET
Venue: Twickenham, London
Centre Selections Will Sink Or Swim
With Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt both suffering with injury at the moment, England’s midfield has been the main source of confusion in recent weeks.
Lancaster originally drafted the uncapped trio of Henry Trinder, Luther Burrell and Joel Tomkins into his training squad, but only the latter—Saracens’ Tomkins—has been retained for Saturday and starts no less.
Alongside the rugby league convert will be Billy Twelvetrees, himself the owner of just a handful of caps, to construct what will be an enigmatic pairing this weekend.
Australia themselves have a fairly unseasoned partnership in the centres. Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani hold just a dozen Test appearances between them and both made their international debuts in the Rugby Championship this summer.
As Georgina Robinson says, Christian Lealiifano is a big omission from the starting line-up:
Matt Toomua has beat good mate Christian Lealiifano in battle for No.12 jersey. Nick Cummins on wing with AAC. Scott Fardy back in at No.6— Georgina Robinson (@geerob) October 31, 2013
Toomua showed in the loss to New Zealand a fortnight ago that his future might be more promising at 12 or 13, rather than the fly-half role McKenzie initially pushed him into ahead of Quade Cooper.
Between the four of them, this weekend’s inexperienced starting centre quartet hold bags of potential, but it will be a matter of which duo can take the most advantage of their counterparts’ situation.
Captaincy Conundrums For Both Teams
One intriguing aspect of this week's build-up was the announcement that James Horwill had been deemed unfit to lead his Wallabies side against England on Saturday and that Ben Mowen would replace him as captain, per the Telegraph.
What's more, Quade Cooper was a controversial appointment vice-captain ahead of others who might have been candidates for the position, including international veteran Will Genia.
The Wallabies aren't the only side with some debate over the captain's role right now. Chris Robshaw has been kept on as England's leader, despite not making it into the British and Irish Lions squad this summer. He instead chose to take an international break.
More than just their morale-based impact, the back-row leaders are likely to come into more direct contact this Saturday in what should be a great contest at the breakdown.
Although one would like to say home advantage speaks for a lot, the Wallabies have managed to win four of their last six meetings with England at Twickenham and don't appear too fazed by a trip to the nation's capital.
Who will come out as top dog on Saturday?
That being said, it's still a fairly experimental side that comes to London this week, albeit one that began to find its feet over the last month or so, more specifically in terms of their back-line success.
While the Australians have been entirely more focused on the international landscape in recent months, England's playing staff have been showing much individual potential in their own club circles, leaving Lancaster with the unenviable task of stitching it all together.
There is, however, a great deal of belief in this England side, boasting a fair share of Lions from this year's tour Down Under, and it will be the forwards' set-piece that manages to see them through to a tight overhaul.
Prediction: England 26-23 Australia
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