We’re just days out from the beginning of the international summer tours, and Europe’s best hope for success in the southern hemisphere is probably England. Straight off their Six Nations Grand Slam victory, Eddie Jones’ squad will bid for victory against Australia in the Wallabies’ backyard.
The first Tests commence this Saturday with Jones looking to take his biggest scalp yet and overcome former teammate Michael Cheika. Here is the team I think will deliver a victory for the Australian-born Jones come the full-time whistle.
At loose head, we can look no further than Mako Vunipola, who is amongst the best in the world when it comes to the loose; however, his scrummaging will be put to the test by the revitalised Australian front row on this occasion. Captain fantastic Dylan Hartley will be at hooker – despite a little amount of recent game time – while, at tight head, Dan Cole will play again after a great Six Nations campaign.
In the second row, despite his Man of the Match performance from Joe Launchbury last time out, I will be sticking to England’s stellar Saracens pair of Maro Itoje and George Kruis. The combination of athleticism and brains will lead to this pair being pivotal in any English victory.
The back row has regularly been under scrutiny for England, and it still is; hence, why I’ve made changes. James Haskell will move across to blindside flanker where his tackling and power will be of more use. Jack Clifford proved against Wales that he has what it takes to be an international player; his body is suited to the breakdown and he’s showed that he can carry. The man at the back of the scrum will be the monster that is Billy Vunipola whose power strikes fear into any opponents.
My half back pairing is different to England’s Six Nations-winning side. At scrum half is live wire Danny Care, whose pace and game management will be crucial. Alongside him is Owen Farrell, the man that spearheaded Saracens’ season with both accurate kicking and hard work.
The centres have often been England’s problem – just ask Stuart Lancaster! I’ve chosen to play Ben Te’o despite being a league convert. England will need power in the back line and the former league player will give them just that. Alongside him is England’s best centre this year, Elliot Daly, who offers pace, quick hands and a solid left boot.
England’s back three was one of their key strengths during their title-winning tournament. Both wingers know how to score tries and create chances for others so Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson will stay in my team. At full back is the more creative, assured Alex Goode who has came off a magnificent season for Saracens.
My XV to start v Australia: Alex Goode; Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell; Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole; Maro Itoje, George Kruis, James Haskell, Jack Clifford, Billy Vunipola.
Patrick Perry, Pundit Arena