I’m sure that anyone who knows anything about rugby will be salivating at the build up this week to the match between Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika… And their teams.
To say that this is just another test match between old foes is rubbish.
This game has been brewing since Eddie left Australia with the silverware in June, against all odds.
Cheika desperately wants it back because at the moment there isn’t that much in the cabinets at the ARU.
There have been comments from both sides about what happened in June which has spilled over to this weekend.
I just want to clarify one issue from the June series as I heard it directly from Eddie.
It was reported that the English coaches stormed out of a meeting with referee Nigel Owen, and Wallaby representatives Stephen Larkham and Nathan Grey.
This did indeed happen.
Although it was reported as being Eddie’s fault, remember there are always two sides to the story.
Without going into detail about it, I’ll just say that I was disappointed with the behaviour of the two ex Wallabies and their lack of respect for their old coach.
In saying that, it’s great to see Michael this week having a dig back at Eddie’s comments about the Wallaby scrum and even going further to say that he is belittling his legacy in Australia.
Obviously he has been advised to get onto the front foot and fight fire with fire, unlike the advice in June where he copped it and sucked it up, which must have been killing him not being able to spar with his old Randwick team mate.
I’m not sure about Eddie’s legacy in Australia because I’m not sure Eddie cares about any legacy.
Eddie only concentrates on the team he is currently coaching and if he is successful then great, if he loses, he only worries about how can he make his team better for the next match.
He has confidence in his team and has great systems in place for all options, plus he has players that are used to playing in front of packed houses so it will be interesting to see if the young Wallabies can hold their nerves when the pressure mounts.
This team has also improved since they last met in Sydney as Eddie, whilst happy with the series win, always wants his team to move forward and they have especially in the backs.
The generals, Ford and Farrell are now well established and both could control the game when required, whether it be through the hands or from the boot, an area which the Australians can’t match at this stage.
The English have always had plenty of players at a high level, but they were not test level. I think now Eddie, like Cheika, has numerous options available to him to cover up for injuries or poor form.
The English defence will need to stand up like it did in Melbourne which will frustrate the Wallabies as I haven’t seen a “Plan B” from Cheika and his coaching staff yet other than playing the Australian way.
It’s fair to say that this Wallaby team is a much better outfit than the side they put on the field in June.
There are still plenty of the same personnel but they are now playing their 15th test match and they are finally starting to trust their instincts and are playing like a cohesive team.
They’ve had three good wins and will be very confident about their chance this weekend regardless of their loss to Ireland last outing.
Their scrum and lineout is solid regardless of the negative commentary, which has enabled the backs to pinpoint the perceived weaknesses in the opposition defensive line.
Why it has taken this long can only come down to consistent selections. I think I’ve been vocal enough about this lately.
It will be interesting to see if Michael selects Rebels flyer Sefa Naivalu as he is a genuine speedster and a great prospect for the future.
One area which was exposed last weekend against Ireland, which was obvious for everyone to see, was at the breakdown.
Regardless of whether they were using legal or illegal methods, I have never seen both Michael Hooper and Dave Pocock blown off so much ball.
The thing that does concern me is if Cheika’s passion in wanting to win this game has followed through to his players and they feel the need to put a bit of niggle to try to put the English off their game.
This happened in the Melbourne and Wellington tests to no avail, so by all means play tough, but keep it clean because as we saw last weekend, having players in the sin bin could lose you the game.
I think the Wallabies will have the shackles off them after their defeat in Ireland and now that the Grand Slam is behind them, they will hold nothing back and will run everything at the English.
For many of the younger players this will be the biggest game of their lives so far playing in front of 85,000 screaming fans, the majority of which will be English with just some gold spattered around.
Listening to “Swing Low Sweet Chariots” ringing in their ears will mean that the English are on top so it will be up to the Wallabies to take the crowd out of the equation.
This game will be a close one that could go either way, so that is why my daughter and I will be getting up for the first time this tour to watch it live.
Let’s hope it’s not decided by a referee decision that is a 50/50 call because I don’t want to see either coach wanting to meet with the World Rugby referee boss for a cup of tea and cake over a result that can’t be changed.
- Glen Ella, exclusively for Sportsta.