Wallabies coach Dave Rennie wonders if under-pressure England coach Eddie Jones might revamp his side’s style in July’s Test series in Australia.
Rennie insists he isn’t focused on the inevitable mind games employed by the former Wallabies mentor, who has been backed until next year’s World Cup despite England’s disappointing 2-3 Six Nations record.
But in tossing up a Jones tactical shift he managed to throw a curve ball of his own while addressing media at the culmination of a three-day Wallabies camp on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.
“He’s probably the most experienced international coach in the world, isn’t he?” Rennie said.
“Smart man, a team that’s well resourced; it’ll be interesting to see if they change how they play.
“You’d have to ask Eddie (about the mind games), but it’s not a big part of my focus.”
But could England revamp their game for the drier, faster pitches that will likely confront them in Perth, Brisbane and the SCG in July?
“It’s not an enormous amount of time to make a difference,” Rennie said.
“I’m not sure, maybe they have a plan to play a certain style at the World Cup and this is their chance to launch that.”
The SCG finale will be the venue’s first Test match since 1986, and the first in Sydney since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That decision has been widely panned by rugby fans because of the difficulties watching the game on the oval.
The Sydney Football Stadium has yet to be completed and an experiment playing in Parramatta or Homebush has been shelved.
They will also meet in Perth for the first time in 10 years and in Brisbane, where England remain the last nation to beat Australia at their Suncorp Stadium stronghold, back in 2016.
Rennie can pick three non-Australian based players while he can also call on Kurtley Beale, who will return from France for the Waratahs next season.
And he said, like last year, players from outside this 40-man squad, could still find a spot in the side in Perth on July 2.
Australia have lost eight-straight Tests to England, and were humbled in their last trip here in 2016 when under Michael Cheika.
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Captain Michael Hooper is the only player in the Wallabies squad who has played in all eight losses.
“Casting back, we came out red hot in Suncorp,” Hooper said of the 2016 series.
“That Suncorp game, we came out really on fire, we were scoring early points, it was looking really good, and then slowly it just unravelled in that game.
“That took a hit to our confidence going into the second game, where it was a low-scoring affair, and then the last game it stretched out a bit.
“We played some decent rugby but we weren’t quite clicking, high emotion.
“We’d come off a good year, close to getting a really good result there in ‘15, so it started us off not on the path you meant.
“Then you roll into New Zealand after three losses and the pressure starts to mount.”
Hooper believes the current squad is well placed to better 2016’s shocker and roll on confidently towards the World Cup next year.
“Big three games against the English and then what rolls on from that is really exciting,” Hooper said.
“So, yeah, springboard this first block, and really see some of our guys and what they’ve learnt over the last bit.”
Australia’s latest loss was in November.
“It didn’t work out well for us last time … we have to change the story and we have a great opportunity here,” Hooper said.
“We talk about getting silverware back on our mantles and what the process looks like to get that result.”
Meanwhile, The Wallaroos will return to the Test arena for the first time in nearly three years when they face Fiji and Japan next month.
COVID-19 has robbed the Australian women’s team, who finished sixth at the 2017 World Cup, of a Test since August 2019.
The Tests in Brisbane and Gold Coast next month will provide an overdue litmus test ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand in October.
“It’s massive; going to be one of the biggest years on the Wallaroos’ calendar,” Shannon Parry, who has returned from rugby sevens to the Super W this season, said.
“It’s been difficult, no doubt, not being able to play in that jersey.
“We’re playing catch up this year, so it’s a good opportunity to get the squad together.”
New coach Jay Tregonning will be in charge, while Rio gold medallist Parry is hopeful of playing a part.
“I finished up with sevens last year, moved home and enjoyed my time in the Super W squad and giving back to the game with a young squad,” she said.
“It’s about enjoying my footy and if I’m fortunate enough to get picked then I’ll embrace it.”
They know what’s ahead of them, with Super W newcomers Fijiana Drua unbeaten in their debut season and awaiting the winner of the Reds and Waratahs in the final.