England v Australia: Hosts can end year on high with Wallabies win
Simon Mail previews England's final match of the year and thinks Eddie Jones' side will be too strong for Australia...
"England have enjoyed the upper hand against Australia recently and the hosts will be confident about extending their record at Twickenham this weekend. The Wallabies have been beaten by their opponents in the last five clashes with England winning seven of the last eight matches."
England v Australia
Live on Sky Sports Action
England struggle to impress against Japan
England have endured a difficult year with a run of defeats leading to increased pressure on head coach Eddie Jones. But a closing victory over Australia would go a long way towards offering encouragement to take into next year's Six Nations and World Cup. Should they slip up at Twickenham, it will only raise more questions about the development of England heading into such a crucial year.
Last weekend's 35-15 win over Japan did little to convince and was a disappointing performance. England trailed 15-10 at half-time to Japan and needed three tries after the break, including one from debutant Joe Cokanasiga, to avoid an embarrassing defeat against the Brave Blossoms.
It rather summed up England's year as they failed to show any consistency after the highs of pushing New Zealand all the way in their previous match. The win over South Africa this month was fortunate although their defensive displays against the Springboks and All Blacks were extremely impressive. The performance against Japan was a step backwards but England should be expected to raise their level for this match.
Manu Tuilagi could make his long-awaited England return after being named on the bench. The Leicester centre has been restricted to just one replacement appearance since 2014 due to injuries. Jamie George is given the nod at hooker, in favour of Dylan Hartley, while the increasingly influential Owen Farrell starts at fly-half. Cokanasiga continues on the wing due to Jack Nowell's injury with Jonny May also recalled to the backline.
Wallabies under pressure after poor year
Australia have had their own problems this year and coach Michael Cheika has come under intense scrutiny after a run of just four wins in 14 Tests. The Wallabies were beaten in Wales earlier this month and won 26-7 in Italy last weekend. It has been a turbulent season for Australia, which featured a home defeat to Argentina, but a squad with the likes of David Pocock and Israel Folau can never be underestimated.
Pocock suffered a neck injury against Italy but the flanker has recovered to keep his place in the Australia team. Kurtley Beale is left out of the squad despite being an ever present during 2018. Matt Toomua and Bernard Foley remain Cheika's two playmakers while scrum-half Will Genia (pictured) wins his 100th cap as Australia bid for their first win over England since the 2015 World Cup.
England have enjoyed the upper hand against Australia recently and the hosts will be confident about extending their record at Twickenham this weekend. The Wallabies have been beaten by their opponents in the last five clashes with England winning seven of the last eight matches. The last meeting saw England thump Australia 30-6 a year ago and it could be another tough afternoon for the visitors.
Three of England's last four wins over the Wallabies have been by at least 16 points but a high-scoring victory does not look so likely because of England's lack of attacking potency during the autumn internationals. Instead, a better bet could be to back England to cover a four-point second-half handicap. Australia have been hit by a sickness bug during the buildup which could take its toll as the match progresses and England have covered this margin during their last five wins over Cheika's side.
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P/L 2018-19 season