Wallabies’ talented backs can give visitors the edge

ENGLAND vs AUSTRALIA

TOMORROW, 2.30PM, SKY SPORTS

AGAINST the All Blacks last weekend England showed signs of promise without quite managing to set Twickenham alight, but most impressive was Martin Johnson’s reaction to his side’s performance. He acknowledged that his side shone in fits and starts but maintained that good rugby in fits and starts is not good enough and has urged for much more against Australia.

The big doubt hanging over the Wallabies is the quality of their front row relative to England’s. Andrew Sheridan and the improving Dan Cole at tighthead made life difficult for Keven Mealamu and co last Saturday, and the Australian front three have made their fallibility clear in their last two matches against New Zealand and Wales. It didn’t come off last week, but this makes an England penalty to be the first scoring play a good bet at 15/8 on Betdaq. The Red Rose will shoot for the Achilles heel early and a penalty awarded against the Australians for a collapsed scrum is likely, as is Toby Flood to convert inside 50 metres.

Their relative weakness in the tight five notwithstanding, the talent at Robbie Deans’ disposal in all other areas of the field means the Wallabies will probably find a way to beat England - as they did against their two most recent international opponents. Full back Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor on the wing and centre Adam Ashley-Cooper are all exceptional talents, with running ability every bit as impressive as Hosea Gear and Joe Rokocoko. England’s defence looked suspect at times against those names and this is where Johnson’s plans could again fall down.

Australia have beaten their hosts on their last two visits to Twickenham, by nine and 14 points. The visitors are only offered a three point handicap tomorrow, but glimpses of England’s potential has persuaded me that taking the 8/13 with Paddy Power for an Australia win is more sensible.

With the sun threatening to break through the south-west London cloud, the stage is set for a thrilling match and therefore a buy of total points at 43 with Sporting Index appeals. Three of the last four head-to-heads have yielded 40-plus points, but we should also bear in mind that both teams are exhibiting some of their most free-flowing rugby for years - with neither placing an emphasis on defence.

POINTERS...
Australia to win at 8/13 with Paddy Power
Buy total points at 43 with Sporting Index
England penalty to be first scoring play at 15/8 on Betdaq