After England laboured to victory against an atrocious Argentina side, all attention turned to the titanic tussle set to take place on Saturday. With the Wallabies returning to form this season after struggling post 2015 World Cup, registering impressive victories against the All Blacks and Wales in recent tests. With England and Australia alike missing pivotal players, we look at who would make a combined team from those expected to play this weekend
1. Mako Vunipola
Man of the match against Argentina the Saracens man is arguably the best loose-head in world rugby right now. Combining sheer strength and technique to dominate the scrum, he will also carry tirelessly. In the absence of his brother his ability to get over the gain line will be even more vital.
2. Jamie George
With Dylan Hartley having an average game last weekend and the Australian options lacking the creativity of the Saracens man, we have chosen the starting Lions hooker for all three tests this summer. Still yet to start for England, he has nonetheless turned in a multitude of dynamic performances this season.
3. Dan Cole
An ever-present in the 3 jersey since making his debut in 2010 amassing 75 caps, Cole is the cornerstone of this forward pack. Rarely missing games due to injury, the Leicester man seems to be made of granite. He is strong, reliable and experienced, and the Aussies credentials at the scrum often seem questionable.
4. Maro Itoje
The two-time nominee for World Player of the Year and 2016 European Player of the Year is a rugby colossus. Achieving so much in the game both individually and with England and Saracens, it’s easy to forget he is still only 23. Sorely missed when rested last weekend he is a world-class operator and should dominate the Aussie pack both in the loose and the set piece.
5. Courtney Lawes
The bulldozing Northampton Saints second row has hit the ground running this international season, registering 25 tackles against the Pumas, a record in the Eddie Jones era. An athletic and dynamic lock capable of playing in the back row, he should control the lineout and gain line.
6. Sean McMahon
With David Pocock taking a sabbatical this season and plying his trade in Japan, much of the work the great man did has had to be undertaken by the Melbourne Rebels man. His performances this season have been admirable, and his great athleticism and zip get the nod over the experienced Chris Robshaw. Leaving Australian rugby for two years after signing a contract in Japan, he will not be available from next season.
7. Michael Hooper
One of the easiest decisions across the side, with no discredit meant for Sam Underhill who was brilliant in his home debut. However, Michael Hooper is probably the best openside playing international rugby right now. Captain of the Wallabies, his skills at the breakdown are unparalleled in the Red Rose outfit. If he can dominate that area then the green and gold can sneak a precious victory at Twickenham.
8. Nathan Hughes
A promising display in an otherwise dour game for England he carried for a game high 79 metres from 15 carries against the Pumas. With Billy Vunipola out he will need to be at his brutal best with ball in hand. Whilst the Australian back row is bristling with energy and pace it lacks the carrying force of an 8 like Hughes.
9. Will Genia
The Australian scrum-half has amassed 86 caps for the green and gold since bursting onto the international scene in scintillating fashion in 2009. At his best he is untouchable, a constant threat around the fringes he is a nightmare for opposition back row.
10. Bernard Foley
The Waratahs fly-half is a diminutive playmaker, possessing a steely coolness under pressure that’s earned him the nickname ‘The Iceman’. He had a sensational game against England at the 2015 World Cup, scoring two tries and ending the host nations hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.
11. Elliot Daly
This was a toss-up between two very similar players in Reece Hodge and Elliot Daly. Both equally adept across the back line possessing searing pace and a cannon of a left boot, they so crucial in collecting long-range penalties. Nevertheless, the Wasps man just sneaks it with his dazzling footwork, and is able to create something out of nothing.
12. Owen Farrell
The three-time World Player of the Year nominee is an astonishing player. Pivotal to any teams attack, his ability to play flat to the line and make faultless decisions allows England to play with width but also challenge in the centre of the pitch. One of the best goal kickers in English history he is a tireless collector of points.
13. Tevita Kuridrani
Power vs pace, strength vs subtlety, Kuridrani vs Joseph. We have selected the Fijian native in outside centre position, with so many playmakers in the side, a carrying presence to crash and smash into his opposite man is needed. A fantastic support player expects him to capitalise on any half breaks at Twickenham.
14. Marika Koroibete
The rugby league convert is a phenomenal athlete and was selected in the 2016 Australia Autumn Internationals squad having not played a single game of professional rugby union. A close call between Bath and England flyer Anthony Watson and the Melbourne Rebels rocket, we went for the ex-Fijian rugby league man as a surprise package due to his power and imperious fend.
15. Kurtley Beale
Returning to Australian rugby after a season in London, he has been a revelation. He was lured back by Michael Cheika who deemed his loss too crucial, and his form this season has been sensational. Switching to 15 after playing 12 in the Rugby Championship, his freak try sealed the victory at the Principality stadium.