Former Australian coach Eddie Jones believes the Wallabies will beat England in their crunch Rugby World Cup pool game on Saturday (Sunday AEDT) if their scrum holds up.
The 55-year-old Australian briefly put aside his Japan coaching duties to joust with old sparring partner Clive Woodward, who inflicted on him the most painful defeat of his career when they were at the helm of the England and Australia teams.
Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal in the dying seconds of the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney dashed the hopes of the host nation, and the trophy made its only trip to the northern hemisphere.
However, Jones thinks the Wallabies can return the favour at Twickenham and consign the home side to the ignominy of being the first host nation to bow out at the pool stage.
That would be dependent on Wales – who edged England 28-25 – beating Fiji on Thursday.
The Wallaby scrum – more specifically the front five – has long been seen as the achilles heel, not at times able to provide enough ball to unleash one of the world’s most-exciting and potent backlines.
“It will be some game but, if the Australian scrum holds up – and the actual number of scrums in a game is a big factor here – I’m tipping Australia,” Jones said in a Daily Mail question-and-answer session with Woodward.
“If they win their share of ball, they have just a bit too much round the park.
“And I’d back whoever wins the pool to get all the way through to the final.”
Jones, whose “Brave Blossoms” caused the World Cup’s greatest upset in beating South Africa, said Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had revived the green and gold since taking over last November.
“I’m a fan,” said Jones. “He likes big aggressive forwards and ball carriers and he gives his backs a bit of latitude.
“Robbie Deans before him (Ewen McKenzie held the post between them before stepping down last October) was a great technical coach but I think Australia lacked a bit of identity.
“Australian sport is about being a bit brash and arrogant, doing things differently and Cheika understands all that.
“Getting Gits (Matt Giteau) and the others back from Europe was smart,” added Jones, referring to how Cheika had persuaded his bosses to select foreign-based players.
Jones does not believe England coach Stuart Lancaster has a firm game plan despite having had more than three years to define it.
“From the outside, he has done a good job in getting the basics right.
“But his next task is whether he can find the best rugby style for his players.
“To me, he doesn’t look 100 per cent sure of exactly how he wants England to play – you can see that from his different selections.”
Woodward had to have the last word.
“An England drop goal in the last minute of the game will do us just fine!”