Lewis Moody: Beware complacency – hurt Wallabies will fight to regain some lost pride
Wednesday 14 November 2012
The visit of Australia offers a great opportunity for England at this stage of the team's development under Stuart Lancaster. If England can win this game it sets them up very nicely for South Africa and the All Blacks. Three wins is really what is needed this autumn. That would be seen as real progress towards the ultimate goal in 2015.
It would be a mistake to read too much into Australia's defeat to France. One bad game does not make Australia a bad team. In the previous outing they drew with the All Blacks. While the result in Paris was extraordinary, it is worth remembering that the French could and perhaps should have been World Champions in New Zealand last year. So perspective is required.
Indeed complacency could be a big threat to England this weekend, though I'm sure that the coach will be reminding the players of that and I don't believe for one minute that the likes of Graham Roundtree, Mike Catt and Andy Farrell will be thinking along those lines. But after a big defeat there is always the danger that the idea this Australia side might be there for the taking could creep into the minds of the players.
There is some discontent in the Aussie ranks. Things are not quite going for Robbie Deans at the moment but he has proved himself a great coach in club rugby, particularly at Canterbury. His biggest problem is the absence of key players. Australia thought they would have David Pocock back but he was ruled out yesterday. There is no Will Genia at scrum-half. Quade Cooper has talked himself out of the side. These are players that would go straight into any team in the world.
Sometimes adversity can be used to pull a squad together, as England showed in 2007. Our attitude was that we were better than the results showed and we were determined to prove that and move forward together. And there is no doubt after back to back defeats to England the last time the teams met in 2010 Australia will be desperate to put one over the old enemy, especially at Twickenham.
They still have world-class players in that squad and they will want to bounce back. The coach is going to want to prove his mettle and captain Nathan Sharpe, a very proud Australian, will not want to walk off a loser again on Saturday. So this has the potential to be a tough, tough encounter. England have a few selection decisions to make, but having got any rust out of the system in that first match against Fiji, they can really build on that display.
It looks like Chris Ashton will return but it would have been a tough call to sit down Charlie Sharples after the game he had. Ugo Monye also played well, has a wealth of experience and was also on the score board. He can consider himself unlucky not to be in the squad for Saturday but England could not have both of them with Ashton to be accommodated.
Joe Marler had a hard time in the scrum against South Africa during the summer. He has learned from that experience and there has been a great improvement this season. Tom Youngs at hooker did well. Learning your trade at Leicester under Richard Cockerill is no bad place to round off rough edges. The scrum is the one area where Australia have consistently under-performed over the years. Despite the noises coming out of their camp to the contrary, this will be an area where England should profit.
The Aussies will look to get stuck into England at the line-out with Sharpe in charge. They will target Geoff Parling, and try to put as much pressure on Youngs' throws as they can. That said, he was immaculate in that area against Fiji, proving people wrong who questioned his technical ability. Doing that against Australia will be a different challenge, however, but after nailing the basics well against Fiji I have no doubt that he will rise to it.
The first 20 minutes are crucial. If we knock them down in that period, keep the number of errors to a minimum and get a score on the board then England will be very hard to beat. Concede turnover like we did against Fiji and it will be a different game. Australia are world class at taking advantage of turnover ball and broken play.
Ireland miss out on another good chance
The best match of the weekend, if not the whole autumn, might turn out to be France versus Argentina, who showed against Wales how quickly they are developing as a truly world-class outfit. Rugby is better for their elevation. I'm only sad that the great Felipe Contepomi will not be playing after limping out through injury.
Over the years Contepomi has been a joy to behold and a pain in the arse to play against. It was a sad way to end his career but fitting one in the way Argentina won in Cardiff.
Pumas serve notice of development
Ireland had a great opportunity to get a first win against the All Blacks in the summer and didn't. On Saturday there was another chance to claim a great southern hemisphere scalp in South Africa. The difference was South Africa took advantage when playing with the extra man after Jamie Heaslip was binned and Ireland didn't when JB Pietersen was carded. South Africa have been world champions twice for good reason. They know how to close out games when not at their best.
Lewis Moody is a TAG Heuer ambassador
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