Rugby World Cup 2019 preview: England vs Australia

Michael Cheika says there is no fear in Australia's ranks ahead of its quarterfinal with England, which has won six in a row against it.

Michael Cheika drinks during a training session at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Japan, on Thursday. Photo: AP

Australia may have lost six successive matches to England, but Michael Cheika insisted "the fear inside us is dead" ahead of its Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.

A 33-13 win for the Wallabies four years ago ensured England suffered an embarrassing pool-stage exit at the World Cup on home soil and prompted the Rugby Football Union to hire Australian Eddie Jones as its new head coach.

Tasmanian Jones has had Cheika's number ever since, with England winning each of its six meetings between 2016 and 2018. However, that record is not weighing on the mind of Cheika, who has already said he will walk away from his post if Australia does not win the World Cup.

"The fear inside us is dead," Cheika said at a news conference. "We are not afraid to go there and get it. That means it will be a great game."

That attitude perhaps explains Cheika's decision to roll the dice on 19-year-old Jordan Petaia, who will become just the fourth teenager to appear in a World Cup knockout match when he starts at outside centre.

Petaia only made his Test debut in the pool stage and both his previous appearances came at wing, but he has been shifted inside with Reece Hodge returning from suspension. "I trust him infinitely," Cheika said of Petaia.

"He's looking good as gold. It's going to be fast and aggressive but I just know he will rise to the challenge — I've seen it in him."

 

Jones has also taken a gamble, dropping the in-form George Ford for Henry Slade and switching captain Owen Farrell to fly-half.

England has won all three of its World Cup matches so far — with its game against France cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis — and Jones knows it needs to raise its level against the Wallabies. "We've had three games, we've had three bonus-point wins, we can't do more than that," Jones said.

"Do we have to play better than that against Australia? The likelihood is yes, and we are prepared for that."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England - Maro Itoje

Turnovers are key in such tight contests and no one won more than Itoje in the pool stage. The forward only played in two games and yet regained the ball on seven occasions.

Australia - Samu Kerevi

While Petaia will garner much of the attention, England must keep an eye on his midfield partner and Queensland Reds team-mate Kerevi. He beat 20 defenders across three appearances in the pool stage — the most of any centre — and more than England's top two players — Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph — combined.

 

Key Opta Facts

- The two nations have met 50 times previously. England has won 24 of those matches and Australia has won 25, while there was a draw back in 1997.
- England averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage, the most of any team. Meanwhile, Australia averaged the fewest (13).
- Australia has reached the knockout phase in each of the nine World Cups and has won six of its previous eight quarterfinals.
- Jonny May will win his 50th cap for England. He has scored 25 tries in his previous 49 appearances.
- Luke Cowan-Dickie, who will start on the bench, has scored a try in each of his three World Cup appearances. Only Will Greenwood (four) has scored in more successive World Cup games for England.

Quarterfinals in numbers

The Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase this weekend, with Ireland looking to finally reach a semifinal and Japan bidding to cause another upset.

Joe Schmidt's team may have beaten two-time reigning champion New Zealand in two of its previous three meetings, but Ireland has a rotten record in World Cup quarterfinals.

Host Japan faces South Africa — the team it stunned in the pool stage four years ago — in its first World Cup quarterfinal, while Wales meets France and England takes on an Australia side it has an excellent recent record against.

Here, we take a look at the Opta data for the four quarterfinal clashes.

England vs Australia

6 - England has dominated the Wallabies of late, winning each of their previous half a dozen meetings since Australian Eddie Jones was hired as head coach in 2015.

7 - No player won more turnovers than Maro Itoje's seven in the pool stage and the England forward only featured in two of his team's three matches.

29 - Jones' side averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage — the most of any team — while Australia, with 13, averaged the fewest.

New Zealand vs Ireland

7 - Ireland is in its seventh World Cup quarterfinal and has lost all of its previous six matches at this stage — the joint most last-eight losses, along with Scotland.

17 - The All Blacks have won a record 17 consecutive World Cup games coming into this encounter — a run that dates back to a quarterfinal defeat to France in 2007.

29 - New Zealand has scored a try in each of its last 29 World Cup matches, last failing to do so in 2003.

 

Wales vs France

8 - In the eight meetings between these two nations since Les Bleus beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semifinals, Warren Gatland's team has won seven times. Only the All Blacks have beaten France more often in that span (10 times).

4 - Wales won all four of its pool-stage matches for the first time since 1987. It has never won five World Cup games in a row.

6 - Since the start of 2018, France has lost six Tests in which it has been leading at half-time — the most such defeats of any side in that time. One of those came against Wales when it was 16 points ahead at the interval.

Japan vs South Africa

3 - Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup was its first over a Tier One nation. Since then it has won two of its three games against such opponents, beating Ireland and Scotland in this tournament.

5 - Kotaro Matsushima is one of the leading try-scorers at this World Cup, along with Wales wing Josh Adams, having crossed five times.

47 - The Springboks won 47 out of 47 lineouts on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to maintain a 100 per cent success rate.