England to face weak Australia pack next month

When England returned home from a drawn series in Australia a little over three months ago, they did not know quite where they stood vis-à-vis the Wallabies. On the one hand, they had won Down Under for only the third time in rugby history; on the other, they had played against a team so pathetically weak in the scrum that the entire tour had been hopelessly distorted. Unfortunately for Martin Johnson and the rest of the red-rose hierarchy, they are unlikely to be any the wiser come the end of November.



England play the Wallabies at Twickenham in six weeks' time, and the sides will not meet again unless and until they reach the semi-finals – or the final – of next year's World Cup in New Zealand. Victory would obviously be handy for Johnson in terms of making an early point, but as the Australians will again be light up front, it may not amount to much.

This time, the Wallabies have issues in the back five of the scrum rather than the front row. They are struggling badly for bodies in the lock department: James Horwill, one of the key figures in the Australia pack, and Mark Chisholm are both injured, while Dan Vickerman is studying at Cambridge University and is not of a mind to forgo the fascinations of land economy in favour of a few weeks' bump and grind with his fellow countrymen. As a result, the uncapped Queensland forward Van Humphries has been summoned at the ripe old age of 34, along with a fellow rookie in Pat O'Connor of New South Wales.

In the back row, the hole left by Wycliff Palu remains unfilled – his long-term injury problems appear to be stretching into infinity – while Stephen Hoiles, the flanker who led the Australian second string in two midweek matches against England during the summer, is also unfit.

These orthopaedic problems extend to the backs, where the likes of Digby Ioane, Stirling Mortlock and Rob Horne are off limits. As a consequence, the Wallaby coach, Robbie Deans, has named a dozen uncapped players in his 40-man training squad, which will be cut to a more manageable size later this month, ahead of embarkation.

Leicester, meanwhile, are making positive noises about the imminent return of their stand-off Toby Flood, the man currently in possession of the England No 10 shirt. Flood suffered a knee injury during his club's defeat at Northampton on the opening day of the season – a minor calamity that has led to the widespread presumption that Jonny Wilkinson, scoring heavily for Toulon in the French Top 14 tournament, will be recalled for the first autumn Test against New Zealand on 6 November.

But Flood is now close to fitness and has an outside chance of making the Leicester squad for this weekend's Heineken Cup match in Treviso. Even if he fails to make it, he is likely to play some part in the home game with Scarlets on Sunday week.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital