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Those familiar feelings of hope and fear
Richard Seeckts
October 31, 2013
England were out-muscled and out-gunned by Australia last year © PA Photos

Just days until Ewen McKenzie's Wallabies take on England at Twickenham, on the 22nd anniversary of their first World Cup triumph at the same venue.

Twickenham has changed a lot since 1991, when 25,000 fewer spectators filled the old stands, bearing tickets at a fraction of today's prices. The way the teams prepare has also changed beyond recognition from the amateur days, but for the fans international week raises the same old hopes and fears.

This is England against Australia - much more than just a rugby match. That Australia beat England in the 'other code' of rugby in the Rugby League World Cup is a mild irritant that will escape the attention of many Twickenham types, some of whom still haven't got over the 1895 advent of professional rugby in the north, let alone the eventual acceptance of professionalism in union, 100 years later.

Though the dinosaurs are dying out, mumbles can still be heard about the use of replacements and how leather balls used to get too heavy to kick in the wet.

After months of gleefully watching Australian rugby totter from one mishap to another, suddenly Saturday's match looks a close call. While Australian rugby went down to a mediocre Lions team, sacked Robbie Deans as coach, suffered crushing defeats to New Zealand and South Africa and severe financial austerity due to its falling popularity at home, English fans licked their lips at the prospect of Saturday's game.

McKenzie's arrival yielded nothing at first, then came the overdue sacking of James O'Connor and the entirely coincidental revival in Argentina and Dunedin. 30 points against the All Blacks is brilliant, except when you concede 40 or more.

All this happened while England have done nothing tangible. They haven't picked a full strength team since March, and that ended in catastrophic failure. Regardless of what has been going on inside the England camp, public debate and uncertainty over selection and tactics is at least as high as during the shambolic 2007 World Cup campaign.

Good domestic form of so many players has led many to believe Lancaster is picking from massive strength in depth, but who really knows whether all the impressive club form translates to a fluent thrashing of any international outfit? And with so many contenders making a claim for the 15 or 23 spots that matter, who's to say Lancaster, with his information overload, will choose the right men?

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Richard Seeckts' rugby career consisted of one school match where he froze on the wing and despite no substitutes being available he was withdrawn from the game at half-time for mocking the opposition's line-out calls. Thereafter Richard and the sport agreed active participation was not the way ahead, but that has not prevented him from avidly writing about and watching the game. He now contributes his random observations to the Crooked Feed blog on ESPNscrum.com