30 mins: There’s an almighty scrap for the ball in the ruck on the far side near halfway. England retain possession and try to run from left to right but the ball goes to ground when Farrell is lined up by Kellaway.
28 mins: England are forced to kick from slow ball, something they haven’t needed to do often tonight. They’re soon back in possession on halfway though – but not for long with a turnover on the ground. A series of kicks are then exchanged on the far touchline, none of them particularly purposeful. The kick-to-kick shifts to the nearside for a while until Genge decides to put his dead down and his bum up.
35m out, just to the right of the posts, and Farrell tugs it wide. That was disappointing.
25 mins: White box kicks from his 22 allowing Steward to show his Superman skills on the burst. England keep the ball alive, looking to go through hands. Care snipes, he earns a penalty advantage at the ruck, England kick to the left corner and the contest goes to ground, so we’ll be back for the earlier infringement and another simple shot at goal.
Allan Alaalatoa is coming off for an HIA – he doesn’t look great.
Freddie Steward is so much fun to watch under the high ball.
Lolesio calmly slots Australia’s first points of the series from 30m out just to the right of the uprights.
23 mins: After Banks leaves on the medicab, England resume with a scrum, but it ends with a penalty to Australia and the first chance for points.
The Wallabies, by the way, have restructured by placing Kellaway at fullback and Petaia enters on the wing.
22 mins: 0-6 down, no Cooper, no Banks, not the best opening to the series for Dave Rennie.
22 mins: Devastating news for Tom Banks. The Australian fullback landed awkwardly chasing the kick-off, and it seems unambiguous on replay that he has broken his right arm. That was very ugly indeed.
On comes the youngster Petaia.
England kick a penalty to the 22 and attack off the back of the lineout through Care. Smith then drops a grubber to the corner. Under pressure, Australia secure safe ball and then stuff it up their jerseys until the clearing kick can be launched. Nowell runs the bomb back with rubbery legs but the breakdown isn’t secured and a serious of scruffy phases in midfield begin. Stuart straightens England up and Farrell at first receiver sets Curry through the line. England are through – almost – as the ball flies to the right wing but Kerevi does magnificently to hold up Marchant. That was a try-saving highlight reel classic. England recycle the ball somehow and by the time play next stops infield it’s for an England breakdown penalty and Farrell dabs over the gimme three points.
Positive start for England.
17 mins: This time the attack gets a chance, and again it’s Kerevi invited to hit the line first. It doesn’t take long for a turnover though with the massive frame of Itoje securing ball for England. In response England again look to run, this time from left to right, once more finding lots of angles, exploiting the 10-12 variety of playmaker Jones’ selection has afforded. You can see those combinations carving sides open if the combinations can be hit crisply.
15 mins: Creative lineout from the Wallabies on halfway but Kerevi can’t get through Curry – who might have suffered a head knock in his defensive action. Soon afterwards England concede another breakdown offence and the Wallabies again kick tot he right corner.
13 mins: England’s forwards cross the gainline for a few phases before the backs are offered some run to the left but Smith is handed a hospital pass he does well to hang onto. After nine phases Farrell goes to the sky on the right wing and Nowell wins the tap back, keeping play alive on the 22. The ball is recycled from right to left, not always with control, but the Wallabies scramble defence with energy and push England back behind the gainline on the left before securing the breakdown for a penalty infield. Bell gets plenty of pats on the back.
Enterprising football from England. They’re looking to take the game on with ball in hand.
11 mins: Great action. Itoje tries to disrupt the lineout call by howling like a banshee. The ref is, quite rightly, having none of it, and very calmly tells the England lock to pipe down. Australia win the throw but then cough up possession with an accidental offside soon afterwards. That’s compounded when England win a scrum penalty on their first feed. The Wallabies went from promising field position and possession to defending a lineout on halfway.
10 mins: Australia twice go through hands to the right inside their own half with White directing traffic. Lawes is pinged at the breakdown for playing off his feet and the Wallabies kick to the right corner.
8 mins: Another breakdown penalty for England, this time for Swain landing on the wrong side of the ruck as England tried to drill their way out of their 22m. The clearing kicks gets to halfway but Swain redeems himself by winning the lineout against the throw.
35 out, 18 in from the left touchline, and Farrell makes no mistake.
6 mins: Play resumes with a Lolesio bomb that Steward collects and runs into contact 10m from halfway. England go through Farrell’s hands to the left before Itoje straightens up. The garryowen is claimed emphatically by Lolesio but Curry does magnificently to get over the ball, resist any clearout, and earn the penalty. Owen Farrell has an early shot for goal.
4 mins: When it finally packs the front rows collapse and the penalty goes Australia’s way.
3 mins: No surprises that the first scrum of the series has to be reset… twice.
2 mins: Australia secure the deep kick-off. Two rucks are very slow and White box kicks to touch on halfway. England secure their first lineout, on the right, then the forwards get to work in midfield. That is until Neville makes a superb first impression at international level, holding up Hill one-on-one and earning a penalty. Excellent start for the debutant.
The first Test is underway in Perth…
The anthems will be sung by the Ten Tenors. Whatever happened to the Italia 90 trio? Inflation, eh?
And now the home side, marched out by Michael Hooper. Nothing covering the famous golden Wallaby jerseys, including that of Noah Lolesio, who looks a little shellshocked to be out among the pyrotechnics.
Here come England, led by the giant Courtney Lawes, strolling out to a chorus of boos in crisp white Umbro drill tops.
The lights have been dimmed at Optus Stadium in anticipation of the entry of the two sides. First comes Mark Ella, carrying the newly minted trophy bearing his name.
Gerard Meagher has more on how upbeat Australian rugby is at the moment, with the prospect of a ‘golden decade’ ahead.
The British & Irish Lions are due in 2025, the 2027 and 2029 World Cup tournaments were secured in May and the Olympics is coming to Brisbane in 2032. The Rugby Australia chairman, Hamish McLennan, speaks of a ‘golden decade’ for the sport with a mixture of anticipation and relief considering how the pandemic brought the organisation to its knees to the extent that a $40m loan – at a considerable rate of interest – from a US investment firm was required last year. Tellingly, he also speaks of how the ‘lean years’ will be between now and when the Lions arrive. But the brighter future that McLennan talks about at least offers security.
As my colleague Angus Fontaine has just noted, with Sydney flooding as we speak, perhaps it was always destined to be Noah’s night…
BREAKING NEWS: Quade Cooper is out! Noah Lolesio moves into five-eighth and James O’Connor joins the bench. Huge late news. It looks like Cooper has tweaked his left calf.
… and the South gained an early advantage in that battle of the hemispheres with New Zealand putting Ireland in their place this evening.
At play this series there’s not just the context of Australia and England’s enduring rivalry, or the looming World Cup, but a recommencement of the battle of the hemispheres with bilateral contests all over the place, as Rob Kitson reports.
The next few weeks may not prove wholly decisive. But try telling that to the host nations. If England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland go home with just a couple of wins between them it will represent a significant southern revival.
Freddie Steward, England’s giant fullback, is going places, fast, as Rob Kitson reports.
As recently as six years ago the Leicester full-back was a bit-part member of Tigers’ age-grade academy side and had absolutely no clue how far rugby would take him. Suddenly here he is, still only 21, preparing to play his first Test in the southern hemisphere having recently been named England’s player of the year. When a high bomb is hoisted his way there are few better equipped to defuse the aerial danger.
Eddie Jones has spoken to Australian TV about what his England side needs to do tonight. “It’s more about the mindset,” Jones said, “you know Australia’s going to be up to the challenge playing on flat hard surfaces.” Adding, with an extra Aussie twang: “We’ve got to make sure we hop in, mate.”
Moving on to tactics, Jones indicated gnomically: “We’ve got to be a team that’s good at being fast and slow.”
Your referee tonight is 31-year-old Kiwi James Doleman. 31! I’m 42 tomorrow and learning I’m that much older than an international referee has done me no good whatsoever. It’s one thing to recognise how much older you are than most of the players, but referees always seem so wizened. It’ll be the coaches I look at with envy next; hopefully.
- Referee: James Doleman (NZR)
- Assistant Referee 1: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
- Assistant Referee 2: Craig Evans (WRU)
- TMO: Brendon Pickerill (NZR)
Veteran scrum-half Danny Care has been the subject of much attention after being called up for the first time in nearly four years. Gerard Meagher captures the mood around England’s fan favourite and his call-up by Eddie Jones.
The pair have not always seen eye to eye but Jones will have appreciated the bold approach and with the modern game – not to mention Australia’s fast pitches – suiting a livewire scrum-half, Care’s shot has hit the target.
In the lead-up to the series Rob Kitson sat down with injury-prone England winger Jack Nowell.
In the 29-year-old Nowell’s case there has been a litany of issues, from toe ligaments to hamstrings before his fractured arm in Paris. ‘It was just one of those things. I jumped up for a high ball, landed on it funny and had a clean break of my radius’.
“Physicality; winning the physical battle,” was Quade Cooper’s answer when the Australian flyhalf was asked during the warm up where tonight’s match would be determined.
Not unusually for Perth conditions are perfect. After a beautiful sun-kissed day temperatures are dropping into the low teens as night falls. There is no chance of rain, and only the slightest of easterly breezes should be felt in the magnificent state of the art Optus Stadium.
Australian bolter Cadeyrn Neville’s story deserves a good airing, and Rob Kitson does the honours here.
Neville was first selected in an Australian squad a decade ago but, until now, has never actually made it on to the field. He is the oldest Wallaby to make his debut since Tiaan Strauss in 1999 and the third oldest since the second world war but his impact for the Brumbies in Super Rugby has earned him a deserved call up.
On that man Farrell, he is not happy at losing the England captaincy, and as Gerard Meagher reports, there has been little effort made to hide the fact.
Farrell has captained England for more than four years whenever selected and though Jones admitted his decision has created a ‘difficult situation’, he believes it will bring the best out of the inside-centre.
This series is shaping as one of enormous significance for former England captain Owen Farrell. His 12-10 partnership with Marcus Smith will determine much of the tourists’ attacking edge, as Gerard Meagher investigates.
The idea is that Farrell can step in at first receiver during structured play while Smith lurks, scanning for space and waiting for the opportunity with that little bit more time. Sounds simple enough on paper but lest we forget they did not have Samu Kerevi lining them up back in November and it is a surefire bet they will see plenty of the Australia centre in the coming weeks.
Courtney Lawes wins the toss. Michael Hooper confuses the referee. Lovely stuff.
Mike Hytner has more on the new Ella-Mobbs trophy.
The Cook Cup, a 25-year-old trophy contested by Australia and England, will be renamed after the two countries’ rugby unions agreed to drop the reference to the British explorer before the upcoming Test series.
‘With such a vast history between them, Rugby Australia and the Rugby Football Union made the decision that the trophy should better represent the proud rugby history of both nations, an RFU spokesperson said.
Angus Fontaine shares his thoughts on Australia’s 35-man squad and what they can expect to accomplish. The tone is one of cautious optimism.
Off the back of an improved Super Rugby season for Australian sides, Rennie’s squad convenes fitter, faster and more experienced than last year. “I think we’ve added a little bit of steel to the group as well,” he reckons. Will it be enough to put England to the sword?
Rob Kitson has cast his eye over a much-changed visiting side that satisfies the cravings of many England supporters.
Not only will Courtney Lawes lead England into Saturday’s first Test against Australia in preference to Owen Farrell but Eddie Jones has also parachuted three experimental new caps into his matchday 23. It is as significant a cabinet reshuffle as English rugby has undergone for a while.
As expected, Covid has ruled out Jonny May, meaning England go in as listed earlier this week. Plenty of attention will fall on the playmakers with the recalled veteran Danny Care in the No 9 jersey feeding the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell axis that looks set to determine England’s short-term future. Farrell of course is no longer captain, more on that to come.
Described by Angus Fontaine as, “a tough, fast, freewheeling outfit designed to run England ragged,” Australia’s line-up is a mixture of the old and the new, and in one case both. Michael Hooper continues to lead from the back of the scrum, and Quade Cooper remains trusted with playmaking duties. But it’s an unfamiliar pack featuring two debutants, including 33-year-old lock Cadeyrn Neville. In the backs, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete offer a formidable presence that is sure to be used to punch holes in England’s defence.
Plenty of familiar names are missing. Kurtley Beale is out injured, Reece Hodge and Matt To’omua were not selected in the 35-man squad, and James O’Connor didn’t make the 22. Taniela Tupou failed to recover in time from a calf injury but may feature later in the series.
The Australian perspective is provided by Angus Fontaine. There is optimism, but for a country so used to winning, at everything, the Wallabies have done so little celebrating recently they risk falling off the map.
Australian rugby is hurting. Nineteen seasons without winning the Bledisloe Cup, 22 years without raising the Webb Ellis World Cup trophy and six years and eight games without a win over England. For a proud sporting nation, it’s not good enough. Many rugby fans have stopped wearing the gold jersey, and many sponsors have stopped believing in it. There may well be a golden decade coming for the code’s administrators with home soil World Cups, Lions tours and Commonwealth and Olympic Games, but none of it matters if the Wallabies aren’t winning.
Rob Kitson has furnished us with not one, but two scene-setters. In this piece the focus is on England’s energy and intent.
Everyone knows Jones is trying stuff – and doubtless keeping other stuff back – with a view to next year’s World Cup but that priority appears to be blurring the focus on the here and now. What English rugby could do with, to borrow a more contemporary cricketing analogy, is a go-get-em blast of unaffected Brendon McCullum-style fresh air and less fear of failure. If England lose this forthcoming series so be it. More important is that they give it a real rip.
While this column reflects on how poor England performed recently against the Ba-Bas and how much Jones and co still have to get right.
The reality is that Jones is still searching for a physically dominant Test-quality centre not named Manu and still seems uncertain about his best options at scrum-half and in the front five. There would also be fewer post-Barbarians alarm bells ringing had England finished the Six Nations with a flourish. Or if Australia were not showing some signs of a revival.
Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of the first Test of England’s tour of Australia, or as Nadine Dorries might call it, the Challenge Cup final. Kick-off at Perth’s Optus Stadium is 5.55pm local time, which is 7.55pm AEST / 10.55am BST.
This is a wide open series overflowing with context, sharpened by the proximity of the World Cup. For England it features a coach under pressure and the coronation of a new captain, with little time to alter course before France 2023. While for the Wallabies, Dave Rennie was appointed over two years ago but there remains a feeling his side is still in transition.
It is England’s first southern hemisphere tour since the 2018 trip to South Africa, and there will be much to learn. As Rob Kitson writes: “Not since their World Cup semi-final win over New Zealand in 2019 have they registered a real statement win away from Twickenham.”
For the hosts it’s a shot at redemption after suffering a 3-0 whitewash the last time these sides met on Australian soil back in 2016. In all, the Wallabies are on an eight-match losing streak to England, with that record extending to 12 defeats in 14 matches stretching back to 2010. However, victory in Perth would see the Wallabies leapfrog England on the world rankings.
Along with bragging rights and World Cup momentum, the two nations will compete for the newly christened Ella-Mobbs Cup. After previously battling for the Cook Cup, the prize has been renamed after Indigenous Australian and Wallabies great Mark Ella and the former England winger Edgar Mobbs, who died while serving his country in the first world war.
Stick around because we have plenty to get through before kick-off. Correspondents Rob Kitson, Gerard Meagher, and Angus Fontaine have been very busy.
If you want to join in the conversations they have begun, or you have any other thoughts about tonight’s match, the series, or anything rugby
(thanks for the reminder Secretary of State) union, drop me an email or send a tweet to @JPHowcroft.