Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham has lauded Samu Kerevi’s international debut, suggesting Australia’s monster midfield will be retained for Saturday’s must-win second Test against England in Melbourne.
Queensland Reds star Kerevi played inside centre alongside Tevita Kuridrani in a new-look pairing in last Saturday’s series-opening 39-28 defeat at Suncorp Stadium.
There has been speculation coach Michael Cheika may revert to the team’s traditional set-up, with a second playmaker at inside centre such as Christian Lealiifano or Matt Toomua, to open up the Wallabies’ attack at AAMI Park.
But Larkham says Australia’s 10 line breaks to England’s five in Brisbane was proof the new approach worked – the only problem was not enough of them were converted into tries.
“Samu had a very fine first Test. He carried the ball when he needed to and found some pretty good support lines out there,” Larkham said.
“Israel (Folau) got his hands on the ball a fair bit which is what you want to see, and Bernard (Foley) seemed to control the game quite well.
“You’d like to be confident every week that if you make a line break you score a try but it’s never the case and I think the scramble defence of England was pretty good.
“That’s a small focus we’ve got in the backline, to make sure that we are firstly creating line breaks, and doing a better job at trying to convert them to points.”
Larkham said the Wallabies coped well with the backline reshuffle that was forced on them when winger Rob Horne was taken off with concussion and utility Lealiifano replaced him.
But it was England coach Eddie Jones’ decision to take off big centre Luther Burrell, send on George Ford at five-eighth and move Owen Farrell across to inside centre in the first half that changed the game, reorganising their defence and providing them with another handy passing and kicking option.
“They’ve both got very good skills to play No.10,” Larkham said.
“George Ford’s passing game was one of the reasons why he came on the field, Burrell’s a ballrunner and a big body out there on the field but when you combine Ford and Farrell, you open up the game a little more.
“They’ve both got great kicking games … that was something (we have) addressed.”
Meanwhile, Larkham said David Pocock was upset by suggestions from Jones his fractured eye socket was a smokescreen and that England were preparing as if the star back-rower would play on Saturday.
“We’re not going to lie about injuries and David’s gone on record as well so he’s pretty disappointed,” he said.