In the history of Test rugby, England has only won three games down under. Australia and the men in white have met seventeen times in the land of green and gold and only on a trio of occasions has the Red Rose come away with victory.
What is even more shocking is that England had never won in Australia until they did so in 2003. They then followed this up with a second victory and a World Cup final as well in the same year. England’s last victory against the Wallabies did not occur until 2010 when Martin Johnson became only the second coach to lead England to a win in Australia.
We’ll now take a look at each victory to remind you just how tough it is to get just a single win on the other side of the world.
2003: England defy critics and claim their first ever win
In some ways the context of England’s victory in Melbourne in mid-June was similar to the one Eddie Jones and his charges find themselves in now.
After a Six Nations campaign that resulted in a first grand slam in a number of seasons, England were criticised for being forward-based, boring and one dimensional. Despite enjoying success after success in Europe’s premier rugby competition, Aussie critics were claiming England could not compete with the flair and flamboyance of Australia’s backs.
However, England dominated up front in Melbourne and showed with some slick handling and fantastic running lines that they too could turn on the style against one of the best teams in the world in their own back yard.
Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall went crashing over for the visitors, but it was Ben Cohen’s wonderful pace, footwork and vision that was really the icing on the cake.
You can watch the whole match here, but skip to 1 hour 20 to witness one of the finest running lines you will ever see:
Video credit: hike6ones
2003: England win the Rugby World Cup in Sydney
After Australia had stunned tournament favourites New Zealand 22-10 in the semi-finals, the Eddie Jones-led Wallabies felt they could defy the odds and retain the William Webb Ellis trophy they had won in Wales back in 1999.
The Australians had previously struggled in 2002 and 2003, failing to retain their Tri-Nations trophy in 2002 and losing the Bledisloe Cup in 2003, but they gradually improved as the World Cup went on and were in fine fettle come the final.
England, however, were determined to win their first ever World Cup title after a glorious year had seen them not only win the grand slam for the first time since 1995 but also defeat both New Zealand and Australia away from home.
Even though they were labelled as ‘orcs on steroids’ by the Australian media, England’s performance in the final was the culmination of the great work coaches Andy Robinson and previously Brian Ashton had done with the players since 1997. It was at times based on brutal forward power and pinpoint accuracy from Jonny Wilkinson’s boot, but also some brilliant passages of play that led to Jason Robinson’s wonderful try.
The match went to extra-time thanks to a Wendell Sailor try and inside centre Elton Flatley having a perfect day with the boot, but it was apt that Wilkinson – for so long England’s metronome – scored the winning drop goal that will forever be etched in all English rugby fans’ memories.
Video credit: David Gogishvili
2010: Martin Johnson’s victorious return to Aus
2009-10 was not a vintage season for either England or Australia. Having lost to Ireland at Twickenham, drawn with Scotland at Murrayfield and been narrowly defeated by France in Paris, England finished the Six Nations in third.
In the previous season’s Tri-Nations, the Robbie Deans-led Wallabies had lost five of their six games and finished well below both the All Blacks and tournament winners the Springboks in the final standings.
In the 2009 Autumn Internationals, Australia defeated England 18-9 at Twickenham, but drew 20-20 with Ireland and lost 9-8 to Scotland. However, they ended their season with a ferocious 33-12 hammering of Wales.
Both teams needed big performances in their two-match test series in June, but both games ended up being sadly disappointing with a lack of intensity and accuracy.
England and Australia lived up to their stylistic stereotypes as England’s pack hammered Australia’s forwards at scrum time, gaining two penalty tries in the process.
However, Quade Cooper’s elusiveness and flair coupled with a Rocky Elsom score ensured brains triumphed over brawn.
Going back to the drawing board, Martin Johnson brought in youngster Ben Youngs at scrum-half and Courtney Lawes at lock, with the former scoring a fantastic debut test try and Lawes providing much needed abrasiveness in defence and a competitive edge at the lineout.
A more expansive approach to the game bore fruit with Chris Ashton also scoring his first test try for his country.
Yet it was Matt Giteau’s wayward boot that ultimately handed victory to England, with the inside centre missing two key penalties to prevent Australia snatching a win as the game drew to a close.
Video credit: RUGBY HIGHLIGHTS
So what does 2016 hold?
Well, England are quickly improving under Eddie Jones after a disastrous World Cup campaign last year, but Australia under Michael Cheika are an impressive outfit and will be determined to kick on from their defeat to New Zealand in the final of the tournament.
England can win at least one test, but they will need to take their performance up several notches from their solid win over Wales last Sunday if they are to do so. Ultimately though, it will take something truly special to win a first test series down under this year.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
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