Final Test more like a World Cup final for England
ENGLAND will not lift its foot off the gas despite already securing a series victory over Australia.
Coach Eddie Jones has stressed the visitors will not be taking the dead rubber lightly and have instead approached the match as a World Cup final, with the first and second Tests replicating the quarter and semi-final stages.
“We’ve treated this week like a dress rehearsal for the World Cup because that what we’re always building towards,” Jones said.
“To win a World Cup you have to win three big games in a row – we’ve won two so this third game is the most important game we’ll play all year. It will be a good indication of where we are as a team.
“The players have enjoyed being in Coogee this week and the attitude to training has been absolutely first-class. They have been inspired by the challenge of playing better for the last game.
“We’re looking forward to playing in front of a full house at Allianz Stadium on Saturday and we are confident we can finish the job off with a win.”
England had never won a Test series Down Under before the victory in Melbourne, and the chance to seal a whitewash over the Australians would go a long way to banishing the memory of the humbling World Cup defeat at Twickenham last year that sent England crashing out of their home tournament, as well as maintain Jones’ 100% start since replacing Stuart Lancaster.
England has already risen to second in the World Rugby rankings behind New Zealand, and having won the Six Nations Grand Slam along with the summer Test over Wales, Jones will hope to end the season with his winning record intact.
Jones has been forced to make one change to his side, with Teimana Harrison receiving his second cap after James Haskell was ruled out with a foot injury.
Haskell has been integral to giving England back-to-back victories in Brisbane and Melbourne, but he left AAMI Park last weekend in a protective boot and has failed to recover in time from the foot injury that he suffered in the 23-7 victory.
Harrison made his debut in the pre-tour victory over Wales last month, and the New Zealand-born flanker gets the nod ahead of Jack Clifford despite the Harlequins forward coming off the bench in last weekend’s victory.
“Teimana has trained well throughout the tour and deserves his spot,” Jones said. “He’s an excellent defender and his robustness will be important to us at the start of the game. Jack Clifford is unlucky to miss out, but will finish the game for us.”
Jones named an unchanged bench for the third Test, meaning Clifford joins a forward-heavy line-up that features a full front row as well as Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes.
Australia has made three changes, with Matt Toomua recovering from a knee injury to return at inside centre at the expense of Samu Kerevi.
Giant lock Will Skelton was recalled to the second row to partner Rob Simmons, who also returns after being dropped following the first Test defeat. Sam Carter and Rory Arnold drop out of the matchday squad altogether, with head coach Michael Cheika set to drop one of the nine replacements he has named ahead of the match.
“Toomua came back and we probably could have spun him out last week, but he needed more running in his legs,” Cheika said.
“There’s a long way to go yet in this season so I didn’t want to burn him early. He’s an experienced player, he plays in that role as second playmaker for us, so it was a logical choice.
“Even though Skelton’s been playing, he’s been playing with a shoulder injury. He hasn’t been able to show us his best yet this season.
“We’ve put him through some hard work during two or three weeks we’ve been together. He’s a big guy, if he’s not at that level of fitness he can’t play international footy.
“Rob was stung by being left out of the team and he fully understood the areas I wanted him to improve on.
“He’s bitten back at training and that warrants an opportunity for him, considering his track record and how much he’s done in the Australian jersey up until now.”
Australia: Folau; Haylett-Petty; Kuridrani; Toomua; Horne; Foley; Phipps; Slipper; Moore(capt), Kepu; Skelton; Simmons; Fardy; Hooper; McMahon. Replacements (one to be omitted): Polota-Nau; Sio; Holmes; Coleman; Mumm; Palu; Frisby; Leali’ifano; Naiyaravoro.
England: Brown; Watson; Joseph; Farrell; Nowell; Ford; Youngs; Vunipola; Hartley (capt), Cole; Itoje; Kruis; Robshaw; Harrison; Vunipola. Replacements: George; Mullan; Hill; Launchbury; Lawes; Clifford; Care; Daly