Scrum Sevens
A matter of life and death
November 5, 2009
England prop Andrew Sheridan scraps with Matt Dunning of Australia, England v Australia, Rugby World Cup, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, October 6, 2007
"What do you mean you don't want to put another shrimp on the barbie?" © Getty Images

There are few rivalries as celebrated as the one between England and Australia. Whether it's rugby, cricket or tiddlywinks, the occasion never lacks for bite.

The latest chapter of England's battle with the Wallabies will unfold at Twickenham on Saturday and we take a look back at some of the greatest showdowns between the two countries in our latest Scrum Seven.

Australia 17-20 England, Rugby World Cup Final, Stadium Australia, November 22, 2003

It's still talked of in England as though Jonny Wilkinson's drop-goal sailed through the uprights only yesterday. A game packed to the rafters with drama, Clive Woodward's crowning glory as England coach is a classic regardless of your personal allegiances.

The Wallabies went in to the final off the back of a surprise win over the All Blacks and had the chance to defend their title on home soil. England, ranked No.1 in the world thanks to their semi-final victory over France, had their best pack of all time in place and a metronomic fly-half. Lote Tuqiri latched on to a steepling Stephen Larkham cross-kick to score Australia's try, and the man he beat to the ball, Jason Robinson, blazed over in response.

The rest of the game was a tale of two kickers, Wilkinson and the pugnacious Elton Flatley. It was Flatley's third penalty, on the stroke of full-time, which ensured an extra 20 minutes of tension for fans. He traded further penalties with his English counterpart in extra-time, but it was Jonny who stole the game with his now iconic drop-goal. Martin Johnson will claim the hard yards to set up position, Matt Dawson will rave about his delivery. It was all down to one man though, nerveless at the last and back to face the Wallabies this weekend.

England 6-12 Australia, Rugby World Cup Final, Twickenham, November 2, 1991

Twelve years earlier, the Wallabies won their first Rugby World Cup at the home of English rugby. Superb scrum-half Nick Farr-Jones led a side brimming with legendary characters. David Campese inspired their semi-final win over the All Blacks with his 'miracle pass', Tim Horan was on his way to being the best inside-centre of them all and Michael Lynagh was cool, calm and collected at fly-half.

England took a classic line-up and attitude into the tournament, with a bruising pack of forwards and the conservative yet reliable Rob Andrew pulling the strings. A close-run win over Scotland in the semi-final had not silenced the critics, and as much as it has been denied, England took a more expansive attitude in to the final.

The Wallabies went route one, and prop Tony Daly emerged from a mass of bodies to claim the only try of the game. Lynagh slotted two penalties and the conversion while England mustered only two penalties from fullback Jon Webb. It wasn't pretty, but the Wallabies had their hands on 'Bill' for the first time.

Australia 14-25 England, Docklands Stadium, June 21, 2002

There were rumblings that England were the best in the world as the 2003 Rugby World Cup neared. The acid test came in the summer of 2002, when they set off to face New Zealand and the Wallabies in successive weeks.

Wilkinson kicked five penalties to see off the All Blacks in Wellington but it was in Melbourne where Woodward's side proved their mettle. With a side showing only a single change from the one that would win the sport's biggest prize, scrum-half Kyran Bracken, England secured their first win on Australian soil thanks to tries from Will Greenwood, Ben Cohen and Mike Tindall.

Adding insult to injury, Woodward fired one last broadside following a war of words with Wallabies boss Eddie Jones.

"It's not about style," said Woodward. "I am getting confused with what is happening in this part of the world. Everyone wants to talk about anything apart from winning. You clearly haven't been watching England. Test match rugby union is an unforgiving place and it's about winning. I think one or two people in this part of the world involved in rugby union have forgotten that."

Australia 76-0 England, Lang Park, June 6, 1998

Ah, the tour from hell. England's lowest ebb came at the end of Woodward's first year in charge, when a young, injury-ravaged side set out for a catastrophically ambitious tour of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Their opening gambit was a thumping 76-0 defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane, where Woodward called on seven debutants to face a strong home side. Openside Richard Pool-Jones, scrum-half Scott Benton, wing Dominic Chapman and centre Stuart Potter never played another Test after their line was breached on 11 occasions. Tim Horan and Stephen Larkham both enjoyed hat-tricks in England's heaviest defeat. England were subsequently hammered twice by the All Blacks and beaten 18-0 at a rain-drenched Newlands by the Springboks.

Australia 22-25 England, Rugby World Cup, Newlands, June 11, 1995

It may have ended in a mauling by Jonah Lomu, but England's campaign at the 1995 Rugby World Cup did at least provide a chance to hit back after the heartbreak of 1991. Andrew was the hero on this occasion, sending over a colossal drop-goal to snatch victory at the death.

Tony Underwood had rounded off a super length-of-the-field try to add some razzmatazz to the occasion but it was Andrew, dependable as ever, who held his nerve to send the reigning champions packing early.

England 22-19, Twickenham, November 18, 2000

In one of the most dramatic finishes ever seen at Twickenham, Dan Luger plucked the ball from the air to score the winning try as the Wallabies watched helplessly. A superb finish by Luger was greeted by wild celebrations as England notched a watershed victory over the world champions who had recently laid claim to the Tri-Nations crown.

The Wallabies had come from behind to lead, with the excellent and underrated Matt Burke starring. He bagged all of their points with a converted try and four penalties, while Wilkinson's steady boot kept England in touch until Luger landed their fateful blow. After this game, England would not lose to the Wallabies until June 2004.

England 12-10, Rugby World Cup, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, October 6, 2007

Less a game and more a war of attrition, England produced one of their most belligerent displays to book a surprise semi-final spot at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

What it lacked in entertainment value it made up for in sheer bloody-mindedness. Andrew Sheridan was at his destructive best despite being hindered by a mixed display from referee Alain Rolland. The Wallabies had lead through a Lote Tuqiri try, but with four swings of his boot Wilkinson sent England through and bagged the mantle of all-time leading World Cup scorer in the process.


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