Australia v England, Sydney, June 19
England and Wallabies set for Sydney re-match
Graham Jenkins
June 17, 2010
England manager Martin Johnson prepares for his side's latest clash, England training session, North Sydney Oval, Sydney, Australia, June 17, 2010
England manager Martin Johnson ponders his side's plight ahead of their latest clash with the Wallabies in Sydney © Getty Images

England tackle Australia at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday desperate to return to winning ways on the site of their most famous win.

It is almost seven years since Martin Johnson lifted the sport's biggest prize following their dramatic Rugby World Cup Final victory over the Wallabies but England have failed to notch a win in the southern hemisphere since that day. That disastrous run reached 10 games in Perth last weekend when an England side dominant in the scrum but devoid of invention were beaten by an exciting Wallabies side that may have lacked grunt, but boasted an abundance of game-breaking backs.

As a result, England enter this latest Cook Cup clash under increasing pressure to illustrate that they can not only learn from their mistakes but also demonstrate they have what it takes to beat the best on the road - something they will have to do repeatedly when the game's elite gather in New Zealand next year for Rugby World Cup 2011. Last weekend's loss was seen as a huge missed opportunity for this current crop of England stars and the midweek victory over the Australian Barbarians by the second string side will have done little to appease the side's growing number of critics. The alarm bells were ringing last weekend and another defeat on Saturday night will no doubt lead to changes within the squad and while Johnson's own future appears bomb-proof, his coaching team would appear those with the most to lose.

In contrast, Australia look increasingly like world-beaters under the stewardship of coach Robbie Deans. His inexperienced front row may have been handed a lesson by their English counterparts but such was their excellence and bravery elsewhere - and a continuing injury crisis - that Deans has been forced to chance his arm again. Another victory over their fierce rivals will be further proof of their growing stature and act as a warning to a demoralised Ireland, who visit later in the month, and also their Tri-Nations rivals who loom on the horizon.

Johnson has opted for minor surgery in the wake of their latest defeat with just two changes to his starting XV. Scrum-half Ben Youngs is granted his first start ahead of Danny Care having impressed off the bench last Saturday while lock Courtney Lawes is another to make the run-on side for the first time in the place of veteran Simon Shaw. Both players represent England's future, with the 20-year-old Youngs still fielding plaudits after a stand-out season in the Premiership for champions Leicester, and he looked very much at home in his most recent cameo - adding some much-needed urgency to proceedings. Lawes is another to have long been heralded as not only one for the future but more pressingly the here and now. His athleticism is seen as the answer to many of England's ailments and he will be expected to make his presence felt at the set-piece and more importantly in the loose, where England sorely lacked aggression and penetration.

Fly-half Toby Food retains his place despite a poor kicking game in Perth and inside-centre Shontayne Hape is another to escape the axe. Outside-centre Mike Tindall has shaken off a dead leg and will once again start. The only other change sees Mathew Tait lose his place on the bench to Delon Armitage.

Australia have been bolstered for the clash by the return of Matt Giteau and Will Genia, who add to an already impressive backline arsenal. Deans has restored Genia to the No.9 jersey despite a strong showing from Luke Burgess last time out with the latter dropping to the bench. The Reds skipper has overcome a knee ligament strain to reclaim his place in the starting line-up while Giteau is back at inside-centre in place of Berrick Barnes after recovering from a hip problem.

Genia will relish the chance to lock horns with England once again having been named man of the match in Australia's 18-9 victory at Twickenham in November and his showdown with opposite number Youngs is shaping up as a mouth-watering clash. Giteau, who has also tormented England previously, is to resume the kicking duties from James O'Connor and in Australia's last two games at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney he has been their sole points-scorer.

Deans' decision to leave his tight five unchanged is a brave one considering the mauling they suffered in Perth and they can no doubt expect a similar assault on Saturday. They are unlikely to have solved all their problems in the space of a week but they may have learned a little at least from last weekend's harsh lesson. The Wallabies had hoped to recall Tatafu Polota-Nau but the hooker aggravated an ankle problem while playing for the Australian Barbarians against England on Tuesday and he will now undergo surgery. Reds prop James Slipper will once again cover both tight-head and loose-head off the bench, where he is joined by Adam Ashley-Cooper after the versatile back shook off an ankle injury.

England have plenty to lose with defeat likely to severely dent if not end some World Cup dreams. And such is their current predicament, even if England were to rediscover an ability to cut the opposition open in devastating style it would mean little without the result to back it up. Just as Australia are unlikely to suddenly become a force at scrum time in the space of a week, England will not rewrite the textbook when it comes to attacking flair so this game may well be a carbon copy of their first meeting. But victory for England could force an immediate re-think as to both sides' ability to conquer the world.

Australia: J O'Connor (Western Force); D Mitchell (NSW Waratahs), R Horne (NSW Waratahs), M Giteau (ACT Brumbies), D Ioane (Queensland Reds); Q Cooper (Queensland Reds), W Genia (Queensland Reds); B Daley (Queensland Reds), S Faingaa (Queensland Reds), S Ma'afu (ACT Brumbies), D Mumm (NSW Waratahs), N Sharpe (Western Force), R Elsom (ACT Brumbies, captain), D Pocock (Western Force), R Brown (Western Force)

Replacements: H Edmonds (ACT Brumbies), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), M Chisholm (ACT Brumbies), M Hodgson (Western Force), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), B Barnes (NSW Waratahs), A Ashley-Cooper (ACT Brumbies)

England: B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tindall (Gloucester), S Hape (Bath), C Ashton (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); T Payne (Wasps), S Thompson (Brive), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Croft (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester, capt), N Easter (Harlequins)

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), D Wilson (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), J Haskell (Stade Francais), D Care (Harlequins), J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Armitage (London Irish)

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
Television Match Official: TBC

Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.

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