Former England captain David Gower has stoked the fires ahead of this summer's Ashes by describing Australia as a country with no culture and their cricketers of having an “animal mentality”.
Gower's comments come ahead of a busy fixture list between the two old rivals, which begins with a Champions Trophy clash at Edgbaston on Saturday and continues with five Tests, two T20 internationals and five more one-day internationals in the coming months.
The two nations then do battle again on Australian soil from November to February.
Asked if England's long-standing rivalry with Australia was a clash of cultures, Gower told the Radio Times: "I'm tempted to say, how can you have a clash of cultures when you're playing against a country with no culture? That would almost be sledging."
Gower, who played 117 Tests for England from 1978 to 1992 and captained his side to victory in the 1985 Ashes series, continued on the subject of sledging by saying: "If you're on the boundary you have to be very, very thick-skinned, because the Aussie crowd will try you with absolutely anything.
"The trouble is, if they've had 10 cans of lager, their ability to come up with something akin to Oscar Wilde diminishes. A lot of it therefore tends to be very stereotypical. But it's feral; if they sense weakness, they'll come at you.
"It's the same with sledging on the field. There's a certain animal mentality, and if they sense a bit of weakness, they'll try it on more.
"The great thing is just to smile, because the smile completely confuses them. But the best way to keep an Australian bowler quiet is simply to make runs. If you're 120 not out, they tend not to say much."
On England's chances of success over the Australians, the 54-year-old Gower said: "My glass is more than half full this year. Australia have lost the Ponting-Hussey axis that was vital to them.
"Michael Clarke is a super player, but so much rests on his shoulders. We've got every right to be optimistic, but no right to be overconfident."