As Australia prepare for their tour of the Northern Hemisphere in the coming weeks, they will be delighted to hear of the major issues in the England camp.
The Wallabies head to Europe to take on England, Wales and Scotland in November, and of that trio of games it is naturally the clash with one of their oldest rivals that most catches the eye.
And with Eddie Jones’ experimental squad now marred by injuries to pivotal figures like Mario Itoje, Anthony Watson and Luke Cowan-Dickie, Australia coach Dave Rennie must be chomping at the bit to unleash his players on Twickenham. They will go into the game as the underdogs in the bookies’ rugby union betting odds, but galvanised by an excellent 32-17 win over Argentina in October they could yet prove to be a dangerous outsider.
Winger Andrew Kellaway scored three tries as Australia finished the Rugby Championship on a high, ensuring Argentina’s tumultuous, months-long tour ended without a victory in six Tests.
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) October 2, 2021
Wing Andrew Kellaway was the hat-trick hero that day, while the inspirational Samu Kerevi once again crossed the try-line to enhance his reputation once more.
That completed a fine run of form in the Rugby Championship, which saw the Wallabies register four wins from six starts – including a pair of victories over world champions South Africa.
Revealing his squad for the tour, Rennie was coy on his side’s chances. “We’ve been building as a squad over the past 18 months or so, and to get a chance to head to the northern hemisphere and test ourselves against four really strong international sides is a great opportunity to learn more about ourselves,” he said.
Privately, you suspect he will be feeling rather more bullish about Australia’s chances.
November to Remember for Wallabies?
Ahead of an autumn of transition for a work-in-progress England squad, injuries to three key figures have rather scuppered Eddie Jones’ plans for a major overhaul.
Anthony Watson has suffered the most devastating blow of all, tearing an ACL that will now see him sidelined for an estimated nine months. The full back’s loss will be cruelly felt by all in the England camp.
— Telegraph Rugby (@TelegraphRugby) October 19, 2021
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Jones, who will also lose second row enforcer Maro Itoje to a shoulder injury and the versatile Luke Cowan-Dickie to an ankle problem.
The implication is both immediate and wider-reaching. It will shake the core of the England team heading into the November internationals against the Wallabies, South Africa and Tonga, and could yet have an impact on the Six Nations, a tournament that they performed so dismally at earlier in 2021.
It also casts sharper focus on Jones’ decision to shake up his squad by leaving out the likes of George Ford and the Vunipola brothers, replacing them with untested rookies such as Raffi Quirke, Mark Atkinson and Sam Simmonds.
But the injury issues are so stark that Mark McCall, the director of rugby at English Premiership side Saracens, said he ‘expects’ the Vunipolas and Jamie George, also dropped, to be reinstated after their performances in the club’s 71-17 demolition of Bath. “If Eddie wanted to see their motivation and desire to still play for their country they showed that – and their quality,” he said.
Either way, an England squad in transition is good news for Australia heading into the packed November schedule.