Wallabies wary of complacency, Jones record, as England series kicks off
published : 29 Jun 2022 at 14:45
PERTH (AUSTRALIA) - Wallabies coach Dave Rennie isn't being sucked into a false sense of security by England's recent underwhelming form ahead of the first Test in Perth on Saturday, with Eddie Jones having an ominous record against his home nation.
England were thumped 52-21 by a French-heavy 14-man Barbarians side in a warm-up to their three-Test Australia tour, which came on the back of a sub-par Six Nations campaign, where they won just two of five games.
While England coach Jones admitted they were well beaten by the Barbarians, he fielded an under-strength side with the Premiership Final between Leicester and Saracens taking place on the same day.
Rennie pointed to the Premiership thriller, where both sides relied heavily on their kicking game, as a better sign of what to expect than the Barbarians embarrassment.
"(The final) was a bit of a kick-fest and not surprising ... that may be an indicator to how England play," he said.
"We're well aware we're going to get a lot of ball in the air and we'll be tested, so we'll pick people who have got the skill-set to deal with that."
Jones is back on home soil with a formidable record -- since he took charge of the Red Rose brigade following the 2015 World Cup, England have won all eight of their Tests against Australia.
Rennie admits the series will be the biggest challenge of his tenure, kick-starting a 14-Test calendar against tier-one nations leading up the next year's World Cup in France.
"Winning the series is crucial," he said. "We've been together for a couple of years now, we reckon we've got more in us and we want to get better, but within that you've got to find ways of winning."
He is set to name his team on Thursday, with the Michael Hooper-led side largely settled.
- Aggressive Aussies -
Marika Koroibete and Andrew Kellaway remain favourites to slot onto the wing, although the impending kicking barrage from the English could see Jordan Petaia or Tom Wright preferred.
There is also a battle at fly-half between Quade Cooper, James O'Connor and Noah Lolesio, while former London Irish star David Porecki is widely expected to earn his debut as hooker after a stellar Super Rugby season.
With 10 players unavailable due to injury, Jones recalled powerful Saracens forward Billy Vunipola and veteran scrum-half Danny Care, along with eight uncapped players, to a touring squad that is a decent mix of young talent and experienced campaigners.
But they suffered a set-back when Jonny May -- second only to Rory Underwood in England's list of all-time leading try-scorers -- tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival and was forced into seven days of isolation.
Jones refused to rule him out, saying that "he'll be available next Thursday to train, so we'll have a look to see what he's like".
The 69-Test veteran's experience could be pivotal with Jones noting that Rennie's teams "traditionally want to play on the front foot".
"So it's going to be about who wins the front foot," said Jones, who has yet to name a captain with Owen Farrell or Courtney Lawes the likely candidate.
"There will be really hard, flat tracks and abusive crowds. They are in the face, the Australians. The media are going to be in our face -- they are aggressive," he added.
They will be playing for the new Ella-Mobbs Cup after the old trophy named after British explorer James Cook -- the prize for the past 25 years -- was dumped last week.
The new silverware honours Wallabies Indigenous great Mark Ella and English World War I hero and former captain Edgar Mobbs, who played in the first Test between the two rivals in 1909.
After Perth, the series moves to Brisbane on July 9 and concludes in Sydney on July 16.