Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Lancaster braced for Aussie backlash

Stuart Lancaster's England face a crucial three games leading up to the World Cup draw
Stuart Lancaster's England face a crucial three games leading up to the World Cup draw

France did England no favours with their thumping 33-6 victory over Australia in Paris on Saturday night.

Not only does Stuart Lancaster now have to steel his men for a Wallaby backlash, but France have leap-frogged England to take fourth place in the world rankings, which puts England's World Cup seeding chances in danger. Australia could also be reinforced by the return of Digby Ioane and Ben Alexander.

"We recognise the challenge that is coming our way," Lancaster said. "In this situation there is bound to be a reaction. They are a nation full of character and resilience in adversity and we need to be ready for it. They have got a few players coming back as well and I am sure they will be a different animal."

England slipping to fifth is significant as the seedings for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will be dictated by the rankings at the end of the autumn internationals. England must regain their place in the top four if they are to be top seeds for their home World Cup when the pool draw is made in London on December 3.

That challenge serves to add extra spice to the QBE international series, with the wounded Wallabies, South Africa and New Zealand all arriving at Twickenham. England opened their QBE autumn series with a 54-12 victory over Fiji, just hours before Australia crashed to a near record defeat in Paris.

Australia endured a welter of criticism for their performances in the Rugby Championship, which left coach Robbie Deans under pressure for his job. But the Wallabies responded positively on that occasion, beating Argentina in Rosario and then drawing 18-18 with New Zealand in their last match before heading to Europe.

"Australians are amongst the finest at rallying and rousing themselves," said England centre Brad Barritt. "Their ability to bounce back from hard defeats is legendary. You have to take them as if they are playing at their best. If you underestimate the Wallabies it will be your undoing.

"They are a gifted bunch of players under a very experienced coach and they will know how to react. If they can draw with the All Blacks, who are the number one team in the world, that shows what they can produce on the day."

Lancaster will spend the next 48 hours assessing his selection options to face the Wallabies, with prop Alex Corbisiero and centre Jonathan Joseph both back in the mix after injury.

Chris Ashton seems certain to return on the wing after serving a one-game ban while Lancaster could look to bring Tom Wood, Joe Launchbury and Ben Morgan into the side.

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