England v Australia
England wary of Michael Hooper
November 26, 2014

England have singled out Michael Hooper for "special attention" at Twickenham on Saturday, with assistant coach Graham Rowntree saying they have to shackle the Wallabies captain if they are to restrict Australia's vast array of attacking talent.

Hooper has been outstanding for Australia since winning the first of his 41 caps in June 2012, with his ball-carrying, breakdown threat and work rate identifying him among the best openside flankers in world rugby, and Rowntree says England "have to nullify him at the weekend and keep him quiet".

"Hooper needs special attention," Rowntree said. "He's a jack-in-the-box, he's everywhere. His line speed and energy are superb, and he's durable as well because he doesn't miss many minutes. He's pretty central to everything Australia do offensively - and at the breakdown as well."

The breakdown will be a key battleground on Saturday, with England desperate to limit the supply of quick ball to Australia's gifted backline while supplying their own backs with the possession to cause damage.

Rowntree insists England's speed at the breakdown will be critical, saying "you want clean ball at your breakdown".

"We work on ball speed every day.

"We've got to go under four and a half seconds for ours, and anything over that that we can give them, the better. We work on that constantly. Ball speed's important. If we can get that ball speed down to under four seconds then we're in business.

"Historically against Australia we are under four seconds.

"You'd be surprised how quick the ball is that we get against the All Blacks, and how we can slow their breakdown down as well. Between four and five seconds is acceptable. If it's between four and six, then we've got problems. It doesn't sound much, but it's a big difference."

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