The first Test of a three-match summer series begins between old rivals in Perth this morning. England arrive at Optus Stadium in something of a rut having been embarrassed by the 14-man Barbarians last month after only winning two of five Six Nations fixtures earlier in the year.
Such a woeful run has piled the pressure on Eddie Jones, who is set to stay in charge until after next year’s Rugby World Cup in France. Jones boasts a perfect record against his native Australia as England head coach, winning eight from eight including a famous 2016 series whitewash down under and 2019 World Cup quarter-final triumph in Japan.
Courtney Lawes is the England captain today despite the return of Owen Farrell, while the likes of Danny Care and Billy Vunipola are also back. Australia hand debuts to Cadeyrn Neville and Dave Porecki in the pack, with Quade Cooper at fly-half as the improving Wallabies – defeated at Twickenham in November – attempt to thwart their familiar foes before the series moves on to Brisbane and then Sydney. Follow Australia vs England live below!
Australia vs England prediction
England have certainly had Australia’s number under former Wallabies boss Jones, who has revelled in dishing out the blows to his homeland over the years with a flawless record of eight wins from eight, including that famous series whitewash down under in 2016.
However, this series has a markedly different feel with the visitors mired in such a difficult run after another underwhelming Six Nations and the end of the Jones era looming after next year’s World Cup.
The Aussies were brushed aside on their dismal northern hemisphere tour last autumn, but will fancy their chances of taking advantage of England’s ongoing issues and starting the three-match series with a bang.
Australia to win by five points.
Australia team news: Debuts for Neville and Porecki
The headline team news from an Australian perspective comes with 33-year-old Brumbies lock Cadeyrn Neville being handed a surprise start as his nation’s oldest debutant this century in a beefed-up pack.
There is also a debut for Waratahs hooker Dave Porecki, while veteran playmaker Quade Cooper is preferred to Noah Lolesio at fly-half with James O’Connor not fully fit and another wily veteran in Nic White at No9.
The influential breakdown artist Michael Hooper captains the side as usual from openside flanker, earning his 119th cap.
Cooper’s fellow Japan-based team-mates Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete also start, but prop Taniela Tupou is absent with a calf injury.
Allan Alaalatoa takes the mantle at tighthead instead.
England team news: Lawes captain over Farrell
Owen Farrell is back for England today after an injury-plagued campaign but is not the captain, with Eddie Jones instead preferring to keep Courtney Lawes in that role – a decision that has apparently left his former skipper “very unhappy”.
Farrell lines up at inside centre alongside Joe Marchant, with the recalled Danny Care earning his first England cap since November 2018 as part of a half-back pairing alongside Harlequins team-mate Marcus Smith, with Ben Youngs staying back to support his family following the recent death of brother Tom’s wife Tiffany.
Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell are on the wings with Jonny May still isolating due to Covid, with Freddie Steward at full-back. England are without the likes of first-choice midfield partners Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade due to injury.
In the pack, Billy Vunipola is recalled and starts at No8 with Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds both injured, while Lawes and Tom Curry line up on the flanks and Maro Itoje is partned by Jonny Hill in the second row.
Kyle Sinckler’s absence means tighthead prop Will Stuart joins Ellis Genge and Jamie George in the front row, while ‘apprentice’ Henry Arundell, Guy Porter and Jack van Poortvliet are all poised to earn their maiden caps from the bench.
How to watch Australia vs England
TV channel: In the UK, Australia vs England is being broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Action, with coverage beginning at 10:15am this morning.
Live stream: Subscribers can also watch the game unfold live online via the Sky Go app.
Welcome to Australia vs England LIVE coverage!
Good morning and a very warm welcome to Standard Sport’s LIVE coverage of the first Test between Australia and England in Perth.
The tourists are down under for a three-match summer tour trying desperately to generate some momentum with next year’s World Cup looming fast following another disappointing Six Nations campaign and embarrassing defeat by the 14-man Barbarians at Twickenham last month.
Kick-off at the Optus Stadium is at 10:55am BST today, so stay tuned for live match build-up, team news, lineups, thoughts from both camps and minute-by-minute updates from the game itself.
This should be a cracking clash between these old rivals.