Brian Smith: Deans is feeling heat as he tries to lift depleted Wallabies

Coach’s view: The line-out will be a serious contest... Expect plenty of fun and games

It may sound a little strange in light of events in Paris last weekend, but I wouldn't mind being in Australia's position at Twickenham this afternoon. It's nothing to do with my status as a born-and-bred Queenslander: I've been living and working in England too long for my background to sway me emotionally when it comes to analysing a game of rugby – even one between these two countries. I just happen to feel that England will be feeling the pressure in a different, more acute way to the Wallabies.

The tourists lost heavily against France seven days ago; some of their most capable players are either struggling with injury here or are under medical supervision back home; they have lost Rob Simmons to suspension, which leaves them light in the second-row department; and their coach, Robbie Deans, is under a lot of heat from those who see the World Cup-winning prop Ewen Mackenzie as a ready-made successor with all the necessary qualities to take on the role immediately. (The fact that Mackenzie is an Australian and Deans a New Zealander might have something to do with it, but it is not the whole story. Where I come from, inter-state prejudice can be just as intense as the international variety: if the coach of the Wallaby team comes from New South Wales, the people in Queensland are immediately on his case, and vice versa).

When you put all this in the mix it's difficult to see why anyone should feel optimistic about Australia's immediate prospects, but this kind of negativity can cut both ways. So many people are dismissing the Wallabies as a rabble; they have nothing to lose in throwing everything at an England team carrying a heavy weight of expectation.

Somewhere along the line on this tour, Deans needs a result – if it doesn't come today, it will have to be against Wales next month. He is in an exposed position because John O'Neill, his big supporter on the Australian Rugby Union, has quit as chief executive, and I hear a lot of talk to the effect that he will not be in charge by the time the Lions arrive in the country next summer. I'm not convinced about that, but there comes a point when the urge for change at the top becomes irresistible. It's part of the human condition.

England can expect to be tested at source far more than they were by the Fijians. They are often the dominant force in the scrum in matches against Australia, but today's set-piece contest has its share of intrigue, not least because Graham Rowntree, alongside whom I worked in the England coaching team, finds himself up against another former Test prop in Andrew Blades. They know each other from their playing days and will be keen to win the tactical battle of wits.

As I suggested last week, the line-out will be a serious contest – one that will crank up the pressure on Tom Youngs. The Wallabies are always strong when it comes to line-out defence: expect plenty of fun and games in the early stages as they box clever and break things up with a variety of disruptive tactics. If Youngs starts to lose his bearings, England will be grateful for the presence of the tough-minded, technically accurate David Paice on the bench.

And then we have the tackle area, where the Wallaby open-side flanker David Pocock has been king in some very big games in recent seasons. Pocock's withdrawal from this game is a big blow to the tourists: much as I admire the way Michael Hooper has played over the last few weeks.

This is an area where, to my mind at least, England are still a little vulnerable – something I suspect will become increasingly evident in the coming weeks when South Africa and New Zealand, both of whom are ferociously competitive at the breakdown, play at Twickenham. No one can doubt the quality of Chris Robshaw's leadership: he is a committed player who has fought many a good opponent to a standstill over the last nine months or so. But I wonder if there will come a time when the coaches decide they cannot continue to ignore Steffon Armitage, who is performing the open-side flanker role so effectively for the French club Toulon and has exactly the kind of game to make a Pocock-like impact.

Having worked with Steffon in both the London Irish and England environments, I recognise his potential and understand the things he can bring to the national side. It may be that if he really wants to build a Test career for himself, he will have to return to English club rugby. Will it happen? Let's put it this way: we at London Irish are in close touch with him and we would welcome him back with open arms if he decided to return.

In the meantime, he's forging a reputation for himself as one of the best breakaways in Europe. If you don't believe me, ask Jonny Wilkinson, who plays alongside him down there on the Riviera. Jonny doesn't talk about his fellow players too often – not in public, at least – but he recently described Steffon as "world-class". Not a bad testimonial, you'll agree.

Brian Smith is rugby director at London Irish and the former England attack coach. His fee for this article has been donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions