England vs Wallabies: Five things we learned

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Wallabies finished their year with a 37-18 loss to England at Twickenham.

What are we talking about after that clash?

1. Disappointing end to rocky 2018

The Wallabies will go away from 2018 with a bitter taste in their mouths after taking just four wins from 13 Tests. 

Australia’s year started positively with a win over a strong Ireland side and a super competitive June Series but they have never really regained that optimism in an inconsistent Rugby Championship and a 1-2 Spring Tour.

Wallabies fans will be feeling frustrated at many opportunities left on the field by the side and the team has plenty of work to do in 2018.

This year will not look good in the history books, but it’s the next step that the Wallabies take that will prove whether Michael Cheika’s urges for faith and belief will have been worth it.

2. Scrum problems rear their heads

The Wallabies fielded a rejigged front row again this week, leaving youngster Taniela Tupou out of the 23, and they left much to be desired. 

It says a lot about their scrum that England tighthead Kyle Sinckler won the man of the match on the night, such was the niggle he gave in and out of play.

The Wallabies have some young scrummaging talent in their ranks but they have now been beaten by a number of teams and it will be a focus for improvement as the World Cup nears.

Australia has questioned some scrum rulings in recent weeks but another disappointing outing against a Northern Hemisphere side will leave them with some review to do.

3. Owen Farrell. Loves a shoulder charge

The end of 2018 will finish with much grey area in officiating as there ever has been after a controversial call went England’s way. 

Australia lock Izack Rodda was charging his way to the try line before being stopped in his tracks by England flyhalf Owen Farrell with what looked like a clear shoulder charge.

In a bizarre decision, that 2003 World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward described as one “England got away with big time”.

The score would have put the Wallabies in front at the break but instead the Farrell hit went unpunished and Australia were given a penalty for offside.

Regardless of the match’s outcome, though, the ruling simply created more confusion than ever about what is deemed to be a card and what isn’t - something some might say has been fitting of a year with plenty of inconsistent decision making.

4. Breakdown is broken down

The Wallabies lacked some physical punch against England and that was more obvious in the breakdown than anywhere else.

England won eight turnovers to Australia's five at Twickenham, a number that was at 7-2 at one stage.

It was an issue that halted Australia's momentum in attack and though it improved through the game, it was a glaring problem particularly early on.

They were missing David Pocock but that was only the beginning of their problems with the physical intimidation left to too few for too long.

5. Aussie’s best still unclear

Less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup it’s not entirely clear who the best Wallabies XV is.

Yes, there are a few obvious mainstays in the side but there are more question marks than certainties going into 2019 in key positions.

The playmaking duo of Matt To'omua and Bernard Foley didn't solidify their partnership and the combination of those two along with Kurtley Beale, who wasn't considered for this match after breaching team protocol, is still yet to be bedded down.

The front rowers, especially hookers, have been rotated almost every second Test this year and at the other end of the scale, the back three has also moved around.

One hand maybe it keeps things open for players to put their hands up in Super Rugby next year but it also leaves little time to settle on the team that could bring Australia World Cup success.

The Wallabies are certainly getting closer to their pool of players -they had just seven debutants this year compared to 13 and 14 in the past two seasons - but there has been a lot of rotation, forced and otherwise - in the 23 week to week.

Teams can't afford to still be mulling over their combinations when the World Cup rolls around and you would think that come July next year, Cheika would have a concrete idea of his best team in the countdown to the World Cup.