"There's a bloke in the sky who will be quite excited": Jones springs surprises in England quarter-final team

Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATE: England coach Eddie Jones believes Randwick rugby icon Jeff Sayle might be having a chuckle and a sneaky beer as two of his most famous mentees go head-to-head in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday night.

Jones and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika both played under Sayle at Randwick and counted him among their biggest influences, and Jones said the Galloping Greens figure would be watching on from somewhere.

"We know about Australia, they are a great tournament side. I think 'Cheik' has done a really good job," he said.

"I'm proud of the job he does. He's a good old mate of mine and there will be a bloke in the sky (the late Jeff Sayle of Randwick) who will be quite excited about Michael and I coaching against each other this week.

"I'm sure he's having a few beers next to St Peter now looking at the situation.

"Look, you know, they are a clever team. They play good rugby, they've improved their scrum and line-out over the last six to 12 months considerably and that makes them more difficult to beat."

Manu Tuilagi will start at inside centre against Wallabies. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyIt was an intriguing view on an intense team selection day where both country's tactics and selection approaches became ever clearer.

Jones picked a team with a few surprises among it and a move for bullocking centre Manu Tuilagi back into the 12 jersey, with Owen Farrell at 10 and Henry Slade at outside centre.

That was a call, among a defence-laden backline, seemingly made to negate the threat of Australian centre Samu Kerevi who still shapes as one of the Wallabies' most dangerous threats.

"Kerevi is a damaging ball carrier and whoever they pick at 13, if they pick the other big Fijian boy then they’ve got two big ball carriers, but we believe we’ve got the defensive capabilities to handle them and cause them a few problems," he said.

Jones said he felt the combination of Farrell, Tuilagi and Slade could give Australia headaches in attack and defence.

"Australia defend a certain way and we believe those three players can trouble their defence, and defensively we feel like it's a pretty strong 10-12-13 combination," he said.

"We know Australia are a high possession team, they are a high phase team and that's how they want to play and so there's going to be a lot of defending in that area and we think those three guys are well equipped to handle it."

The Wallabies are also expected to spring their own selection surprise with teenager Jordan Petaia set to start at 13 in just his third Test.

In the forwards, Mako Vunipola replaces Joe Marler at loosehead prop and Courtney Lawes replaces George Kruis in the second row.

Ball-crashing no. 8 Billy Vunipola has been cleared to play after recovering from an ankle injury.

Manu Tuilagi will start at inside centre against Wallabies. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyFarrell said he was more than happy to move back to the main playmaking position.

"I've played flyhalf plenty of times before, fine with it, it's more about how I can fit in to the team, and hopefully get us in the place where we can perform well at the weekend," he said.

England have won the past six matches against the Wallabies, dating back to 2016, but Jones dismissed any notion that record would count for much in the knockout clash.

"The great thing about the World Cup is that each game is a game in itself so whatever you've done in the past doesn't really affect what you are going to do on Saturday and what we do know is that we will be well prepared for the game," he said.

"We've had a good physical prep and a good tactical prep and they are ready to go. We know Australia are the same so it's going to be some sort of a game."

The Wallabies play England in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday October 19, kicking off at 4:15pm local, 6;15pm AEDT, LIVE on Foxtel, Network Ten and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO, Rugby Xplorer and Amazon Alexa.

TEAM

England to play Wallabies

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Courtney Lawes

6. Tom Curry

7. Sam Underhill

8. Billy Vunipola

9. Ben Youngs

10. Owen Farrell

11. Jonny May

12. Manu Tuilagi

13. Henry Slade

14. Anthony Watson

15. Elliot Daly

Reserves

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie

17. Joe Marler

18. Dan Cole

19. George Kruis

20. Lewis Ludlam

21. Willi Heinz

22. George Ford

23. Jonathan Joseph