Autumn internationals: England need to win the mental fight to beat Australia...

...and enacting Andy Farrell's three-point plan could do the trick at Twickenham

Ten years on from that World Cup-winning night of nights in Sydney, precious little has changed in Anglo-Australian rugby relations. England have yet to discover a second method of winning a Test match between the two countries – they either smithereen their opponents up front or they lose – while the Wallabies, however weak they might seem on paper, have a nasty habit of appearing a whole lot stronger in the flesh.

All of which makes this afternoon's meeting at Twickenham something to savour, for if England are to make good on their claims of progress over the last 20 months or so – if they are not to begin this "defining year" of theirs with an all-too-definite credibility problem – they really cannot afford to finish second to a weak touring side currently running on a 28 per cent success rate. They start as favourites, just as Martin Johnson's team did at the Olympic Stadium in 2003, and while the pressure on them to live up to the billing is not quite as great, it still weighs a ton.

So much depends on the level of control placed on proceedings by the rival No 10s: Owen Farrell of England, Quade Cooper of Australia. They are not exactly peas from the same pod: Farrell is as tough as old boots, the warrior spirit of a functional team constructed at least partly in his own image; Cooper is the polar opposite with his conjuror's skill-set and devil-may-care attitude. Both men will face a good deal of heat; only one will withstand it successfully.

It should be remembered that the Australians who made it to the World Cup final a decade ago were as surprised by their achievement as the recalled Cooper was to be made vice-captain of this latest vintage. Yet that '03 side took England – not any old England, but the best red rose combination in almost a quarter of a century – all the way to the last minute of extra time before conceding defeat, and they might even have won had Stephen Larkham, their supremely intelligent outside-half, played the whole game.

How come? How did those Australians, with a powder-puff front row and a scratchy back three and a less than frightening combination at lock, manage to scare the wits out of a team armed with Johnson, Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood, Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson, Phil Vickery and the holy back-row trinity of Richard Hill, Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio? In short, it was all in the mind – and if this latest England team are to make the most of home advantage in the 2015 World Cup, they know they must raise their game in the top two inches.

Andy Farrell, father of Owen and the current England backs coach and defence specialist, agrees that the two most consistently successful sporting teams on the planet are the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian rugby league Kangaroos. He has direct experience of both, having either played or plotted against them, and he believes there is a common denominator. Three common denominators, in fact.

"Firstly," he said, "there is what I call 'intent'. Those teams have a mental hardness about them, a way of getting the emotional side of their game absolutely right. Then there's concentration – their ability to stay focused throughout the 80 minutes. Finally, there's a calmness about their execution. They rarely become flustered under pressure."

The last time a full-strength England team took the field in anger, on Grand Slam day in Cardiff back in March, each of those crucial virtues was conspicuous by its absence. Wales operated at a higher emotional pitch from the kick-off, they were never once deflected from their purpose and they played precision rugby whenever a scoring chance arose. Virtually every senior red rose figure, from the head coach Stuart Lancaster to the Northampton flanker Tom Wood, has used the phrase "hard lesson" in discussing those events this week.

Tipped by some for the England captaincy but happy to serve as Chris Robshaw's principal lieutenant – "When all that was being talked about, I phoned Chris and said: 'Let's not get caught up in this for a single second. You know you have my complete support if you're named skipper,'" he mentioned in passing – Wood recognises the importance of cold analysis on the hoof, however hot the battle might be.

"Take the breakdown," he said. "Part of it is getting your head in there where it hurts, as hard and fast as you can. But there's also a skill involved, and more than anything it's a decision-making process. Can you make a difference by going into the tackle area? Or is it a lost cause? Are you going to be a wasted bullet? If you go in there and you're a wasted bullet, you're leaving people short in the defensive line – hanging them out to dry, facing a two-on-one.

"Against Wales, we were caught out by their emotional charge, and when that happens it's difficult to turn the momentum round. When things don't go to plan and you're on the back foot; when you're soaking up tackles and there's wave after wave…it's very hard to stem. That's when you need to bring out that level of intensity in yourselves and force a game-changing moment – a big tackle, a fierce ruck clearance and a turnover. It's about emotional energy as much as physical energy."

Australia are masters of generating the level of intensity Wood described and if they detect even a whiff of English softness this afternoon, the high-class forwards in their pack – the veteran hooker Stephen Moore, the bright young flanker Michael Hooper, the bitterly competitive lock James Horwill, the late-flowering new captain Ben Mowen – will grow in stature before our very eyes. And then watch out. Cooper, Will Genia, Tevita Kuridrani and Israel Folau will need no second invitation to run riot.

Farrell, such an authoritative voice in this red rose set-up, thinks England's new combinations – at lock, in midfield and in the back three – are ready to step up. If he is right, and the likes of Billy Twelvetrees at inside centre and Marland Yarde on the left wing bring the best of themselves to the occasion, there will be rich potential for a highly significant victory. If England are off their game for any prolonged spell, Twickenham will be shrouded in doom and gloom.

Australia are under new management, Ewen McKenzie replaced Robbie Deans at the end of the Lions tour, and there have been some teething problems. But transformations happen more quickly Down Under than up here. In 1989, when the Wallabies last lost a Lions series, they stripped their team bare, fast-tracked a fresh generation and, two years later, beat England at Twickenham to win the World Cup. McKenzie will remember that better than most. After all, he was a key part of the side.

Sibling success in different sports

Joel and Sam Tomkins

Joel makes his England union debut today while his brother, Sam, will represent his country against Ireland in the Rugby League World Cup at the same time.

Gary, Phil and Tracey Neville

Brothers Gary and Phil played football for England, while sister Tracey represented her country at netball, winning bronze at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.

Leslie and Denis Compton

Denis played Test cricket for England (and football for Arsenal), while his brother Leslie played football for England (and Arsenal) and as wicketkeeper for Middlesex.

Theo and Hollie Walcott

Arsenal midfielder Theo has won 36 England caps while elder sister, Hollie, is a bodybuilder who came second in the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation Central Championships in 2010.

Mark and Dan McGwire

While not achieving international honours baseball player Mark broke the record for home runs in a season by a rookie, while brother Dan was a quarterback for Seattle and Miami in the NFL.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments