Jones tries to shift pressure on to England

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Having received a statement of support from the Australian Rugby Union that could not, in all conscience, be described as a ringing endorsement, Jones shrugged his shoulders and played the phlegmatic card.

"There is always pressure in this job, and that pressure intensifies when you're losing," he said. "This run of defeats has hurt me, but cycles don't last for ever. There again, contracts in coaching are nothing more than a piece of paper. You have to perform, and if your employers don't feel you are performing they'll make a decision."

Needless to say, Jones plans to pre-empt any such decision by registering a second successive victory in the backyard of the reigning world champions. To this end, the starting line-up he names today is expected to show some radical departures from the one that went under in Marseilles last Saturday night.

Neither Wendell Sailor, the Lomuesque wing who knows what it is to put tries past England, nor Matt Giteau, the goal-kicking midfielder who stood at the heart of Australia's striking victory at Twickenham this time last year, are certain to survive the cull. Three relative unknowns - the outside backs Drew Mitchell and Mark Gerrard and the lock Hugh McMeniman - are pushing hard for promotion.

The coach was unwilling to declare his hand in advance of the scheduled announcement, but he was more than happy to throw a few well-aimed darts at England's selection, which, in light of the recalls for a number of World Cup-winning veterans - Ben Cohen, Mike Tindall, Matt Dawson, Phil Vickery - he effectively damned for its conservatism.

"Our situations are not dissimilar," he said, delicately slipping his stiletto between the ribs of his opposite number, Andy Robinson, "but we've reacted in different ways and taken different paths. We're bringing good young players through, while England have been more predictable. If they have healthy player development going on beneath the Test side, they're in a good position with regards to 2007. If they haven't, they're taking a gamble on certain people making it through to the tournament."

It was classic Jones - verbal annihilation delivered with the most innocent of smiles - but inevitably the discussion returned to the dead weight of win-or-bust pressure on Wallaby shoulders.

"Australians have enormously high expectations of their national teams," he admitted. "When our cricketers lost the Ashes, everyone back home was down about the situation, just as they were when we were losing in the Tri-Nations. But the cricketers have bounced back, and we'll bounce back, too. England will be cherry-ripe for this game, while we're in the 11th month of our season. We're working hard, though. The worm will turn."

For his part, Robinson was characteristically reluctant to shout the odds. "We haven't stood still since the World Cup, we've gone backwards," he said, bluntly. "We've dropped off the pace set by the best sides. I see this match as the first step towards defending our world title in two years' time and while I wouldn't for a second dismiss the Wallabies as being low on confidence - all Australian teams are dangerous - I think we've prepared extremely well."

No excuses, then? "There are never excuses," he replied. "Any England team should have the weaponry, the know-how and the competitiveness to win. And these players won't need motivating. If it turns out they do, I've picked the wrong team."

Eddie Jones's six of the worst

AUSTRALIA'S LOSING RUN

23 July S Africa 33 Australia 20

30 July S Africa 22 Australia 16

13 Aug Australia 13 NZ 30

20 Aug Australia 19 S Africa 22

3 Sept NZ 34 Australia 24

5 Nov France 26 Australia 16

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