England relishing 'gladiatorial' battle vs Australia, vows Cockerill

England are relishing a ‘gladiatorial’ battle against Australia, insists Richard Cockerill – as forwards coach warns Wallabies that must-win second Test for tourists will be ‘physical and feisty’

  • Australia face England in the second Test of their three-match series on Saturday
  • Australia won the first Test 30-28 last week, built upon their dominance up front
  • England’s forwards coach Richard Cockerill says their pack will be physical

England are fired-up for a ‘gladiatorial’ showdown with Australia on Saturday and Ellis Genge has been backed to set an aggressive tone, in his head-to-head with the giant known as ‘Tongan Thor’.

The tourists go into the second Test 1-0 down in the series and hell-bent on proving a point after their 30-28 defeat last weekend. That setback in Perth was founded on the Wallabies’ eventual dominance up front – despite being a man down for more than half the game – and England’s pack intend to deliver a powerful response, according to their coach, Richard Cockerill.

‘The forward battle is going to be key and let’s look forward to it,’ he said. ‘We’re an English pack and we want to get in the middle of it. Tomorrow, we will get in the middle of it. It’s about making sure that battle of wills is really strong and making sure that we don’t blink first.

England’s forward pack are relishing a ‘gladiatorial’ battle vs Australia, says Richard Cockerill

‘The physical battles up front are always crucial. We look forward to it. Bring it on. We want it to be gladiatorial. We want it to be physical. That first clash is going to be great. Let’s go and see it. That is what the game is all about. Let’s enjoy the physical parts, the feisty parts and within the laws of the game, let’s get into it.’


Australia have recalled Taniela ‘Tongan Thor’ Tupou at tighthead prop and he set the scene for a titanic personal battle with Genge, saying: ‘You want to be better than your opposition. He’s going to try to give it to me and smash me. I will do exactly the same thing. I want to give it to him.’

Having signed Genge for Leicester when he was the Tigers’ director of rugby, Cockerill knows what a primal force of nature the Bristolian can be and he is relishing the prospect of him taking on Tupou. ‘I’m looking forward to that battle – two big ball-carriers, two big, physical men, who are going to get at it,’ he said. ‘That’s what sells tickets, isn’t it?

‘Clearly, he (Tupou) is exceptionally explosive with ball in hand. He is a good set-piece operator, but his impact in the loose, with and without the ball, is pretty good. It should be a good set-piece battle between him and Ellis. It all sets it up for a nice, tasty evening.

‘Ellis is pretty self-motivated. He’s led really well, he’s enjoyed leading and that has made him play better. Tupou has not played for a little while, so he’d better turn up and perform if he is going to start challenging Ellis before the game. Ellis will get on with his game. He has been very, very good.

‘I am sure they (Wallabies) are saying the same as us. When Gengey gets the ball, they are going to want to whack him. When he (Tupou) gets the ball, we are going to want to whack him.’

Ellis Genge (right) has been backed to lead England’s physical battle vs Australia by Cockerill

Cockerill has past experience of coming to this city with England – but he didn’t enjoy the reminder. He was a starting member of the Red Rose team that endured a record 76-0 loss here in 1998, at the start of the so-called ‘Tour of Hell’.

Asked what his memories of that grim episode are, he quipped: ‘The 76-0 one? It was really s***. Is that enough?’ Some Australian fans were on the edge of the pitch doing more and more press-ups, in line with the mounting points tally and Cockerill added: ‘The bit I can remember is that the boys who were doing press-ups soon got bored of doing press ups. I have deleted that from my memory!’

Having endured several ordeals on that ill-fated southern hemisphere crusade, Cockerill was adamant that this won’t turn into another Tour of Hell, saying: ‘Not a chance. We are very much up for the battle. The first Test was tight. It could have gone either way. We are very much sleeves rolled up, gum-shields in and we are coming here to win the game tomorrow night.’

Australia have won their last 10 Tests in a row at Suncorp Stadium but Cockerill played down the significance of that record, from an English perspective. ‘It is just a game,’ he said. ‘It is just a pitch. Ninety per cent of our lads wouldn’t even know that (10 in a row). In fact, I didn’t know that until you told me! We just get on with the game. It is not a factor for us.’

Cockerill says England aren’t fazed by Australia’s strong recent record at Suncorp Stadium

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