England may have halted their five-game losing streak by beating Samoa, but such a win will prove particularly shallow if the Autumn Internationals finish with defeat to Australia, the weakest of the three southern hemisphere giants.
With the greatest of respect to Samoa, a comfortable win over the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham is the base-mark for any England side, though there were positives to extract for coach Stuart Lancaster.
Yet another narrow defeat to the All-Blacks could be viewed as acceptable during the autumn Tests, even with a home World Cup on the horizon, but far less forgivable was South Africa extending their hoodoo over England given the erroneous nature of the Red Rose’s display.
An 8/13-rated win over the Wallabees is now a must if Lancaster’s men are to build any of the much-cited World Cup momentum the coach keeps alluding to, or, escape these Autumn
Internationals with any belief the 7/2 dream of 2015 glory is actually achievable.
Having reshuffled his backs to accommodate both Bath’s George Ford and Saracens’ Owen Farrell for the 28-9 win, sticking with the former at outside-half has to form the foundation of any victory over Michael Cheika’s tourists.
In truth, Farrell did little wrong in his unfamiliar role at 12, though Ford’s performance at number 10 rightly earned the plaudits against Samoa and if anyone is to lose their starting spot against the Aussies, it should be the Sarries fly-half.
Lancaster’s hint that substitute inside-centre Billy Twelvetrees could be given his chance against Australia after impressing from the bench during the Samoan defeat, could make this a reality.
Ford’s ability to spot developing situations in attack – where one diagonal kick to Anthony Watson resulted in a try – while also jinking his way through bone-crunching Samoan tackling, was only transcended by the accuracy and control of his kicking.
Kicking for the posts he was nearly-flawless, but when forced to kick for position in midfield he crucially either hit decent touch or went high enough to apply the necessary pressure to the Samoan defences.
Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton gave a lesson in delivering testing high ball to Australia during their 26-23 victory on the same weekend.
England and Ford should be taking a leaf out of the Irish fly-half’s book.
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