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The Roar


England vs Wallabies: Rugby World Cup quarter-final preview and prediction

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Roar Guru
18th October, 2019
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After a hit-and-miss group stage for the Wallabies, and a momentum building prelude to the knockout stages for the English, it is do-or-die as the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals get underway with a bumper clash between two of the oldest enemies in global sport.

Tournament play is misleading in a sense. A team that has played flawless rugby union in the group stages can be sent home courtesy of one poor 80-minute performance.

Alternatively, a side that has spluttered and puffed its way into knockout contention can finally see things click when it matters most, progressing one step closer to a piece of silverware.

For the Wallabies, they will be clinging on to that possibility and hoping the first four games aren’t the script of how their quarter-final performance against England will run.

Underwhelming performances against Uruguay and Georgia, and slow starts against Fiji and Wales left the Australian outfit second in their pool, and not riding the wave of good form that Michael Cheika and his staff may have hoped for or envisaged running into this World Cup.

Too often it has been basic handling errors and sub-par work at the breakdown that has let opposition sides stay in the contest, even when on paper they were far inferior.

That leads us in to team news for this clash. For the Wallabies, the biggest call of the lot is undoubtedly the selection of young gun and two-Test wonder Jordan Petaia at outside centre.

Jordan Petaia

(Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Debuting on the wing against Uruguay, Petaia played 40 minutes, and impressed many with his deft handling and footwork through contact.


His minutes ticked up to 60 against Georgia, but few would have expected him to be picked to start at outside centre against England in a do-or-die quarter-final match-up.

His battle with Henry Slade will be a belter. 

Petaia’s centre partner Samu Kerevi has carried the ball 48 times this World Cup, beating 20 defenders in the process.

He holds the keys to the Australian attack, and if he is able to make solid, consistent yardage over the gain line, Australia give themselves a chance of springing an upset against their more-fancied English rival.

In other news, Reece Hodge returns from suspension on one wing, while Michael Hooper and David Pocock reignite their back-row relationship.

Christian Lealifano and Will Genia will play in the halves for the Wallabies, marking the sixth successive occasion that Australia has fielded a different halves combination.

The lack of continuity in these positions may come back to bite an Australian outfit desperately keen to find the consistency required to turn in a flawless 80-minute effort.

England have made three changes to the team that beat Argentina in their final group stage clash, with Owen Farrell to start at flyhalf for the first time in the tournament.


Mario Itoje returns to the second row, and he has been a monster at this Rugby World Cup, despite only taking part in two matches to date.

Henry Slade comes in at outside centre, while Billy Vunipola has recovered from injury to take his spot at number eight.

England have a host of big, abrasive ball-carriers in Courtney Lawes, Vunipola, Itoje and Sam Underhill. If they keep the ball in tight, and play through their superior pack, the Australian’s will find it very difficult to win this match-up.

15 Elliot Daly, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Dan Cole, 19 George Kruis, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 George Ford, 23 Jonathan Joseph

15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Reece Hodge, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio

Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt To’omua, 23 James O’Connor

It hurts to admit, but England should win this game.


Australia is beaten in the playmaking and set-piece stakes, and the mental wood that the old enemy have over the Wallabies cannot be understated.

Cheika and his troops haven’t beaten England in their last six match-ups, and this will make it seven on the fly.

England by 9.