Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika.
Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika.

Cheik mate: from teammates to foes

THE latest chapter in one of rugby's great rivalries will be written on Saturday when England take on Australia.

At stake is a place in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, with England head coach Eddie Jones aiming to get one over on his homeland and former Randwick teammate Michael Cheika.

Ahead of the quarter-final clash in Oita, which begins at 6.15pm (AEDT), take a look at some of the key talking points.

JONES MAKES A CASE FOR ENGLAND'S DEFENCE

There was some surprise when England unveiled a team with in-form fly-half George Ford dropped to the bench and Owen Farrell moved back to fly-half from inside centre for this quarter-final clash.

It signals Jones' desire to beef up the midfield to contain rampaging centre Samu Kerevi, not to mention restrict Australia's ability to use the strike threat of wingers Reece Hodge and Marika Koroibete, and fullback Kurtley Beale.

Henry Slade comes in to partner Manu Tulagi in the centres, adding some extra go-forward with the ball in hand as well, following skipper Farrell's shift into the halves and head coach Jones believes it is the perfect way to counter what England will be facing.

"Australia defend a certain way and we believe that those three players (Farrell, Tuilagi and Slade) can trouble their defence," Jones said.

"Then, defensively, we feel like it's a pretty strong 10-12-13 combination and we know that Australia is a high possession team, high phase team.

"That's how they want to pay, that's how their fans want them to play so there's going to be a lot of defending in that area and we believe that those three guys are well equipped to handle it."

Although the defensive side of his game is considered by some to be a weaknesses, it is worth noting Ford has a 100 per cent tackle success rate from the 11 he attempted during the pool stage and Jones insists he still has a part to play against Australia.

"I spoke to him and obviously he's disappointed, but he knows his role in the team," Jones said.

"We've left a lot of good players, eight players, out of the squad of 31 and they're all disappointed but he's got a significant role for us to play."

PETAIA GETS HIS CHANCE

 

There were one or two eyebrows raised by Australia's selection decision as well - namely handing 19-year-old utility back Jordan Petaia a start at outside centre.

Petaia, who plays for the Reds Super Rugby franchise, is the youngest Test player to start for the Wallabies at centre since Jason Little 30 years ago and the first born in the 21st Century to feature in a World Cup knockout game.

He made a try-scoring debut on the wing in the 45-10 win over Uruguay before starting out wide in last Saturday's 27-8 win over Georgia, racking up three clean breaks, beating six defenders and providing an assist in those two matches as well.

The move to the midfield alongside Kerevi allows Cheika to bring Hodge back into the fold after serving a suspension and the Wallabies head coach has backed the teenager to show the world what he can do.

"We just watched the games and made the assessments of each player as they went along, and there were things that we liked," Cheika said.

"And what we've seen from Jordan, both on the field in games and also at training, we felt that this would be a game that would suit him.

"The guy has been in around the squad for a while now, even though he's young. He is more than ready to do this. I trust him infinitely, and that's why he has been chosen."

Cheika is impressed with how Petaia has taken the news he would be starting a World Cup quarter-final in his stride as well.

"The way his demeanour is, you wouldn't think he was picked," Cheika said. "He was just loping around as per normal so it's going to be great."

FROM RANDWICK TEAM-MATES TO RIVALS

They may be rival coaches now, but there was a time when Jones and Cheika stood shoulder to shoulder on the rugby field back in Australia.

The pair both enjoyed long careers for Sydney club side Randwick - Jones as a no-nonsense hooker and Cheika, seven years his junior, as an uncompromising back row.

Although neither earned a Wallabies Test cap, both have made their mark on the international stage as coaches and although they have traded verbal barbs in the past there is still a huge respect between the former Galloping Greens players.

"I think Cheiks has done a really good job," Jones said ahead of Saturday's showdown in Oita. "I'm proud of the job he does.

"They're 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."

Cheika is pleased to see Jones enjoying success as well, although he admitted he does not like seeing fellow Australians taking charge of English national teams.

"He's done a good job, for sure," Cheika said. "(But) It always hurts me when there's an Aussie over there, you know what I mean?

"Trevor Bayliss and Eddie and, I don't know, Wayne Bennett. You want them at home, but it is what it is. What do you do?"

WILL THE BREAK MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Eddie Jones. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Eddie Jones. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England come into this match on the back of two weeks without stepping onto the field in anger as their final game in Pool C against France was cancelled and declared a 0-0 draw due to Typhoon Hagibis.

That result confirmed Jones' side's status as the top side in the pool ahead of the French and sent them through to a clash with another of their rugby rivals, along with giving England plenty of time to rest and prepare.

But while they were recuperating, Australia still had to complete their pool campaign and ended second in Pool D behind Wales after grinding their way past Georgia 27-8 in Shizuoka last Friday.

It is the age-old question as to whether it is better to have that extra recovery time or go in battle-hardened after a tough game while your opponents were resting, but Jones is in no doubt about which side of the argument he comes down on.

"We are not concerned at all, we are excited, absolutely excited as it's a great opportunity," Jones said when the news broke the clash with France had been cancelled.

"Who would have thought we would have two relatively easy games, one tough game and then two weeks to prepare for a quarter-final. So someone is smiling on us - the typhoon gods maybe?"

TEAMS

Australia: 15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Reece Hodge, 13. Jordan Petaia, 12. Samu Kerevi, 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Will Genia; 1. Scott Sio, 2. Tolu Latu, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Rory Arnold, 6. David Pocock, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Isa Naisarani

Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. James Slipper, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Adam Coleman, 20. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21. Nic White, 22. Matt To'omua, 23. James O'Connor

England: 15. Elliot Daly; 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Manu Tuilagi, 11. Jonny May, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Courtney Lawes, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 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

This article was originally published by Sky Sports and reproduced with permission

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News Corp Australia

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