MANAGER Martin Johnson has warned his England charges that he rates Saturday’s opponents Australia as even more dangerous than New Zealand.
England were narrowly beaten by the All Blacks, the world’s No1 ranked side, in last weekend’s opening Test of the autumn campaign.
But Johnson, who has drafted Dylan Hartley into the starting line-up in place of Steve Thompson, believes Australia could present an even stiffer challenge. “In some ways they are more dangerous than the All Blacks in the way they can break for tries,” he said. “They get around you and the support is sharp. We really need to get those bits sorted out. It’s about speed and intensity.”
Australia ended New Zealand’s 15-match winning streak last month and Johnson is particularly wary of the threat posed by their backs.
“They are very dangerous,” he added. “You have to be very sharp. They play with a huge amount of variation, maybe more than the All Blacks. They are strong runners and we need to be strong in the tackle. We also need to improve what we did with the ball.”
Northampton hooker Hartley’s selection is the only change to the team whose comeback was thwarted by the All Blacks in last week’s 26-16 defeat. Johnson explained that the New Zealand-born player’s try after coming off the bench had helped him edge Thompson out of the XV.
“Dylan did very well when he came on. It’s not a knock on Thommo,” Johnson added. “I thought he forced his way in there with the way he played. He’s been in great form after he missed the summer tour with injury. He’s returned with huge enthusiasm and intensity. His ball carrying is getting better.”
Thompson drops to the replacements bench, where he is joined by Wasps forward Simon Shaw.