After a disappointing Six Nations campaign that saw them finish third, England’s national rugby side was in need of a quick bounce back in form. Their stout defence, impenetrable set-piece and ability to dominate field position were the building blocks for their success in the 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC) – and if they were going to compete and win their tour of Australia that took place in July – it was imperative that the Eddie Jones outfit returned to that brand of rugby.
In what is always a tough task, England took on bitter rivals the Wallabies in a three-test series – with fixtures in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney transpiring over three consecutive weekends. With the 2023 RWC in France not far away, testing themselves against one of the most successful teams in the sport’s history would act as a strong indicator of whether the direction the team was heading in was a positive or negative one.
They came away victorious, winning the final two games of the series to take it out 2-1 – reminding pundits and fans alike that they will still be a team to be reckoned with when they run out at rugby’s premier competition next year.
Their series win seems to have bolstered their sports betting odds for next year’s flagship event also, with them sitting as the third favourite at the time of writing.
Although they ultimately won the series, their campaign didn’t start particularly well, going down 30-28 at Optus Stadium in Perth. It was a flattering scoreline for the English side, as two late consolation tries by Henry Arundell and Jack van Poortvilet brought the contest to within just two points once the siren rang. That wasn’t a true reflection of the poor performance Jones’ men put forth – as their errors, ill-discipline and poor defence allowed their opponent’s backline to run riot.
Their loss was all the more disappointing given the Wallabies played with 14 men for the majority of the match, after their lock Darcy Swain received a red card for headbutting opposing backrower Jonny Hill. England’s inability to capitalise at the set-piece and out wide was disconcerting for English fans, and if they had any chance of winning the series from that point forward, they needed to rectify those glaring holes in their game. The fallout from their loss was immediate, with many people believing that England’s recent form highlighted that Jones had lost the dressing room.
To their credit, they managed to put all of the negative press aside and defeat their opponents in the second test in a strong display at the famed Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. The English men started incredibly physical, winning the early exchanges at the breakdown which put the Wallabies pack under immense pressure. That pressure resulted in points, with the touring side jumping out to a 19-0 lead in the first half.
However, similar to that of the first test, England’s incapacity to hold on to leads continued to rear its ugly head. Australia swiftly brought themselves back to within five points with 25 minutes remaining – and provided the momentum with the home side had at that point in the match – it looked as if they were on track for a series win inside two games. To England’s credit, however, they went back to the foundations of their success – mistake-free rugby, thus securing the win 25-17.
That set up a much-anticipated decider at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Despite finding themselves down 10-3 courtesy of a try to Wallabies winger Tom Wright, the England side showed plenty of resolves to wrestle the lead back with tries either side of half-time to Freddy Steward and Marcus Smith. In what was yet another hard-fought contest, the touring side’s ability to hold firm despite an onslaught of late pressure from their opponents will undoubtedly buoy Jones’ men as they prepare for a gruelling 12 months.
England captain Courtney Lawes was full of praise for his team’s efforts throughout the series.
“We dug in, fair play to Australia with the casualties they have had, they did a great job and put us to the test but we stuck together and stuck at it,” he said.
“We fought for each other, we had a great four weeks here and enjoyed it. They gave us a bit of fuel in the press, we stuck to our guns, we found a way to win.”
While it was great series win, they won’t have any time to rest on their laurels as they face a testing autumn which includes fixtures against heavyweights South Africa and New Zealand.