James Horwill is backing Australia to end their barren run against England and go on to win the Rugby World Cup.

The Wallabies have lost six consecutive games against England since knocking them out of the previous World Cup at Twickenham four years ago.

Eddie Jones' side are firm favourites to continue that sequence at Oita Stadium on Saturday and set up a semi-final against two-time defending champions New Zealand or Ireland. 

Yet former Australia captain Horwill thinks Michael Cheika's men can defy the odds and lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.

Asked if the Wallabies can go all the way, he told Omnisport: "I don't see why not. They would get New Zealand next assuming they get past Ireland, which most people would expect them to do.

"It would obviously be challenging, but if we were able to perform as we did against New Zealand in Perth [where Australia were 47-26 winners in August] with a very dominant performance, there is no reason why we can't.

"It's just the consistency we need, which has been lacking over the last couple of years."

Horwill stressed the importance of Australia starting the game against England as they finished it in a 29-25 Pool D defeat to Wales last month, when they mounted a spirited fightback but gave themselves too much to do.

"You can see the way we play we are holding the ball and not kicking a lot. I don't see them changing the way they play." the 34-year-old ex-lock said.

"In the Wales game, we turned the ball over too much to start with. When you hold on to the ball, as we saw in that game, you can build pressure with gaining territory.

"That is a big part of the way the Australians have been playing, keep the ball and carry hard. If we can do that, we have some very damaging runners and a potent attack.

"The key is not allowing [England] to get into the position Wales were in to start with. Build the scoreboard, manage the game really well and hopefully not chase the game."

Eddie Jones praised his "good old mate" Michael Cheika ahead of Saturday's Rugby World Cup clash between England and Australia and said mentor Jeff Sayle would be proud of them.

Jones and Cheika have never need much encouragement to engage in verbal exchanges before showdowns between England and the Wallabies.

The former club-mates were exchanging compliments two days before a blockbuster quarter-final at Oita Stadium, and England head coach Jones thinks Randwick great Sayle - who died on October 1 - will be looking down with pride this weekend.

"They are a great tournament side. I think Cheik has done a really good job," Australian Jones said.

"I'm proud of the job he does. He's a good old mate of mine."

Jones added: "There will be a bloke in the sky who will be quite excited about Michael and I coaching against each other this week.

"I'm sure he's having a few beers next to St Peter now looking at the situation."

Wallabies boss Cheika thinks it is a shame Australian rugby is not benefiting from Jones' expertise.

"He's been there [in England] for a bit now hasn't he? He's done a good job for sure," Cheika said of the former Australia coach.

"It always hurts me when there's an Aussie over there. Trevor Bayliss and Eddie and, I don't know, Wayne Bennett. You want them at home but it is what it is. What do you do?"

Matt Toomua has an insight into opponents England from his time with Leicester Tigers, but his assessment of their "weaknesses" will be of little use in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.

Toomua spent three years in the Premiership with Leicester and is set to come face-to-face with a number of former Tigers team-mates in Oita this weekend. 

The versatile 29-year-old is among the Australia replacements to take on an England side including the likes of Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Jonny May, with George Ford and Dan Cole on the bench.

Asked for his thoughts on his ex-colleagues, Toomua told a news conference: "I know all their weaknesses. I can list them now for you if you want.

"Manu is a terrible snooker player, George Ford never pays for a beer, Ben Youngs isn't even the best rugby player in his family, let alone his country.

"The chicken, Jonny May, is very weird, and Dan Cole doesn't have a personality. I've just been telling everybody about that."

Shifting to a more serious tone, he added: "No, we had a great relationship with them and one thing we do know is they're all quality players. We were fortunate for the last couple of years when Manu came back from injury, we just saw him grow in stature.

"He probably grows the bigger the game as well. He probably plays his best rugby in Tests, and that's the sign of a true champion player.

"Obviously Manu is a name that sticks out for a lot of reasons - he is a strong carrier and makes a lot of big plays. But it is probably about trying to shut down his time and space.

"He is at 12 now so he is a bit closer to the play, so it might be a little easier in that sense. I'm sure they're working out ways to give him some ball one-on-one at full steam."

While Tuilagi is a very real threat to Australia from the outset, Ford lost the number 10 shirt to Owen Farrell despite an impressive tournament to date.

Captain Farrell said: "I've played fly-half plenty of times before, I'm fine with playing fly-half. It's more about how I can fit in the team and hopefully put us in a place to perform well at the weekend."

Australia may have lost six successive matches to England, but Michael Cheika insisted "the fear inside us is dead" ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

A 33-13 win for the Wallabies four years ago ensured England suffered an embarrassing pool-stage exit at the World Cup on home soil and prompted the Rugby Football Union to hire Australian Eddie Jones as their new head coach.

Tasmanian Jones has had Cheika's number ever since, with England winning each of their six meetings between 2016 and 2018.

However, that record is not weighing on the mind of Cheika, who has already said he will walk away from his post if Australia do not win the World Cup.

"The fear inside us is dead," Cheika said at a news conference.

"We are not afraid to go there and get it. That means it will be a great game."

That attitude perhaps explains Cheika's decision to roll the dice on 19-year-old Jordan Petaia, who will become just the fourth teenager to appear in a World Cup knockout match when he starts at outside centre.

Petaia only made his Test debut in the pool stage and both his previous appearances came at wing, but he has been shifted inside with Reece Hodge returning from suspension.

"I trust him infinitely," Cheika added of Petaia.

"He's looking good as gold. It's going to be fast and aggressive but I just know he will rise to the challenge - I've seen it in him."

Jones has also taken a gamble, dropping the in-form George Ford for Henry Slade and switching captain Owen Farrell to fly-half.

England have won all three of their World Cup matches so far - with their game against France cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis - and Jones knows they need to raise their level against the Wallabies.

"We've had three games, we've had three bonus-point wins, we can't do more than that," Jones said.

"Do we have to play better than that against Australia? The likelihood is yes, and we are prepared for that."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

England - Maro Itoje

Turnovers are key in such tight contests and no one won more than Itoje in the pool stage. The forward only played in two games and yet regained the ball on seven occasions.

Australia - Samu Kerevi

While Petaia will garner much of the attention, England must keep an eye on his midfield partner and Queensland Reds team-mate Kerevi. He beat 20 defenders across three appearances in the pool stage - the most of any centre - and more than England's top two players - Manu Tuilagi and Jonathan Joseph - combined.

Key Opta Facts

- The two nations have met 50 times previously. England have won 24 of those matches and Australia have won 25, while there was a draw back in 1997.
- England averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage, the most of any team. Meanwhile, Australia averaged the fewest (13). 
- Australia have reached the knockout phase in each of the nine World Cups and have won six of their previous eight quarter-finals.
- Jonny May will win his 50th cap for England. He has scored 25 tries in his previous 49 appearances.
- Luke Cowan-Dickie, who will start on the bench, has scored a try in each of his three World Cup appearances. Only Will Greenwood (four) has scored in more successive World Cup games for England.

The Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase this weekend, with Ireland looking to finally reach a semi-final and Japan bidding to cause another upset.

Joe Schmidt's team may have beaten two-time reigning champions New Zealand in two of their previous three meetings, but Ireland have a rotten record in World Cup quarter-finals.

Hosts Japan face South Africa – the team they stunned in the pool stage four years ago – in their first World Cup quarter-final, while Wales meet France and England take on an Australia side they have an excellent recent record against.

Here, we take a look at the Opta data for the four quarter-final clashes.

 

England v Australia

6 - England have dominated the Wallabies of late, winning each of their previous half a dozen meetings since Australian Eddie Jones was hired as head coach in 2015.

7 - No player won more turnovers than Maro Itoje's seven in the pool stage and the England forward only featured in two of his team's three matches.

29 - Jones' side averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage – the most of any team – while Australia, with 13, averaged the fewest.

New Zealand v Ireland

7 - Ireland are in their seventh World Cup quarter-final and have lost all of their previous six matches at this stage – the joint most last-eight losses, along with Scotland.

17 - The All Blacks have won a record 17 consecutive World Cup games coming into this encounter – a run that dates back to a quarter-final defeat to France in 2007.

29 - New Zealand have scored a try in each of their last 29 World Cup matches, last failing to do so in 2003.

Wales v France

8 - In the eight meetings between these two nations since Les Bleus beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, Warren Gatland's team have won seven times. Only the All Blacks have beaten France more often in that span (10 times).

4 - Wales won all four of their pool-stage matches for the first time since 1987. They have never won five World Cup games in a row.

6 - Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Tests in which they have been leading at half-time – the most such defeats of any side in that time. One of those came against Wales when they were 16 points ahead at the interval.

Japan v South Africa

3 - Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup was their first over a Tier One nation. Since then they have won two of their three games against such opponents, beating Ireland and Scotland in this tournament.

5 - Kotaro Matsushima is one of the leading try-scorers at this World Cup, along with Wales wing Josh Adams, having crossed five times.

47 - The Springboks won 47 out of 47 lineouts on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to maintain a 100 per cent success rate.

Lasith Malinga returns to captain Sri Lanka, while Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Oshada Fernando have retained their places in the Twenty20 International squad for the series in Australia.

Malinga was among a host of players who opted out of the recent tour of Pakistan, which Sri Lanka ended with a historic 3-0 whitewash of the top-ranked T20 side in the world.

Dasun Shanaka skippered an inexperienced team in Malinga's absence, but the paceman is set to resume leadership duties in a three-match series that starts at Adelaide Oval on October 27.

Batsmen Rajapaksa and Oshada are also among the 16 players selected after making their debuts in Pakistan.

Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella are among the other names to come back into the squad.

 

Sri Lanka squad:

Lasith Malinga (captain), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha.

Australia coach Michael Cheika has placed his faith in Jordan Petaia by naming the teenager at outside centre for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against England.

The 19-year-old will become the first player born this century to start a World Cup knockout game when he lines up at 13, having featured on the wing in his previous two Tests during the pool stage.

His change in position comes about because wing Reece Hodge has also been selected having completed a three-game suspension after he was cited for a high tackle against Fiji.

Petaia will partner Queensland Reds team-mate Samu Kerevi in midfield while Cheika has opted for a half-back pairing of Will Genia and Christian Lealiifano.

Kurtley Beale has retained his spot at full-back having cleared the concussion protocols after taking a blow to the head against Georgia, while flanker Michael Hooper is back to captain the team.

Australia are bidding to reach their third successive World Cup semi-final and end a run of six consecutive losses to England, who have won every game against the Wallabies since Tasmanian Eddie Jones was appointed as their head coach.

 

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Christian Lealiifano, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Tolu Latu, Allan Alaalatoa, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Isi Naisarani.

Replacements: Jordan Uelese, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Nic White, Matt To'omua, James O'Connor.

Nathan Lyon is refusing to give up hope on featuring for Australia at their home ICC Men's T20 World Cup despite missing out on selection against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The spinner has only made two T20I appearances for his country – the last of those coming a year ago – and is not included for his country's upcoming series in 20-over cricket.

But Lyon, Australia's third-highest wicket-taker in Tests, still wants to play in all three formats and will continue to make himself available.

"Definitely I want to put my hand up for all games of cricket, especially for Australia," he said.

"Whatever game I play cricket for, I just need to make sure I'm doing my job and if I keep putting my hand up for selection, who knows where that may lead to?"

Lyon, who was facing a similar battle prior to the 50-over World Cup before entering as Australia's front-line spinner, insists there is no issue with chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns.

"He just called me and told me I wasn't in," he added.

"But I had a really good chat to Cracker [Hohns] – I get along really well with him – so if I have any issues with Cracker, I'll just pick up the phone.

"There's no doubt. I have the absolute utmost respect for him so there's no dramas there."

Joe Marler said England have no fears as they prepare for Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia.

Marler came out of test retirement at the end of the last season to join up with Eddie Jones' England squad, who are well rested for the clash in Oita having had their final pool game against France abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

The 29-year-old Marler was part of the England team that did not reach the last eight in 2015, but believes the 2019 squad are better equipped to embrace the challenges of knockout rugby.  

"I don't think it's pressure. The group has now got a mind-set of 'bring it on – bring on the challenges'," he told reporters.

"We embrace it and look forward to it as opposed to shying away from it.

"I have been involved in teams who have let nerves overcome them, caved in and allowed them to become negative. I don't feel that in this group. The boys embrace the nervousness and use it as a positive energy to drive us on."

Marler had retired from internationals in 2018 due to family reasons but could not resist the opportunity to win a World Cup with England, having been called into the squad for the showpiece tournament in Japan.

"That was part of the reason I came out of retirement. I could see the potential in this group and I wanted a taste of that. That's ultimately what's driving me on for the next couple of weeks," he added.

"It hasn't been easy. I've had to work my buns off to try and get back to an emotional and mental state capable of contributing to the squad the best I can.

"And the physical state too. That has been even harder. You come out of it for a year and you forget how fast they do everything."

James Horwill thinks the cancellation of England's Rugby World Cup clash with France could work in Australia's favour when the teams meet in a blockbuster quarter-final on Saturday.

England were due to face Les Bleus in their final Pool C match in Yokohama last weekend, but Typhoon Hagibis prevented the fixture from going ahead.

It led to England coach Eddie Jones saying the typhoon gods must be smiling on his team after they were given a weekend off and finished top to set up a showdown with the Wallabies.

Yet former Australia captain Horwill believes England will be wishing they had locked horns for a pool decider with their Six Nations rivals, having won their other three games at a canter.

Horwill told Omnisport: "England are a good side, well drilled and very disciplined with what they do. When they get on the front foot, they are very hard to stop.

"I think they would have liked to have had that game against France because it would have been a strong test and a really challenge.

"They have come through the pool stage being able to deal with the opposition quite comfortably, which is obviously a good thing for them, but they haven't had a big test.

"It depends on how you look at it. From the point of view of someone like Billy Vunipola, with a sore ankle, he's had extra time to rest up and get fit in a week off.

"They would have wanted to play again, but they should feel good going into the game. But if the heat comes sometimes you need to think, 'We've been here before last week and we know how to get through it'.

"Obviously that is not something England have had to deal with."

Warren Gatland realises the importance of Wales following up an impressive victory against Australia by performing well in their remaining Pool D matches.

Wales took control of their Rugby World Cup group by clinging on against the Wallabies and earning a hard-fought 29-25 win.

Gatland's side are expected to challenge for a first title at this tournament, yet the coach is first focused on ensuring they do not "take anyone lightly" prior to the knockout stages.

Wales face Fiji and then Uruguay in a pair of fixtures they will be expected to win.

"It was a tough game [against Australia] and a victory. It's confidence boosting hopefully for the next couple of games," he told a news conference. "We think they're going to be tough.

"Fiji will be hurting and we saw how well they played against Australia in the first half of that first game. We can't take anyone lightly in this group.

"It's important for us that we make sure we prepare in the best way that we possibly can and that we don't take any team or any performance for granted.

"We have to be as clinical as we possibly can be because that's what good teams do. They make sure that they are clinical and they are accurate.

"If we are to be considered a good team, we have got to play well in these next two matches."

Wales were waiting to see how Dan Biggar recovered after a failed head injury assessment, but Gatland was optimistic Liam Williams would be fit after rolling his ankle.

"We'll need to make sure we recover," Gatland said. "We've got nine or 10 days until our next match.

"We'll use that in the best way we possibly can to freshen up the guys and make sure we take a little time. It's nice getting a decent break before our next match against Fiji."

Meanwhile, opposite number Michael Cheika was not receptive to discussing Wales' chances when he was asked for an assessment at his own spiky news conference.

"I don't think that's really for me to talk about, is it? We've played our game against them and move onto the next game," he said.

"They won, now move onto the next game. It's not my place to talk about who's going to win and who's not."

Michael Cheika claimed decisions at the Rugby World Cup are making him "embarrassed" and question his own knowledge of the laws after feeling Australia were let down by officials again.

The Wallabies had seen Reece Hodge suspended for three matches in the build-up to playing Wales, having been cited for a dangerous tackle against Fiji.

That challenge and the subsequent hearing prompted a public debate in which Hodge took issue with those criticising his supposed lack of knowledge of the "high tackle decision making framework".

Australia were then frustrated to see an apparent high tackle from Rhys Patchell on Samu Kerevi that instead saw the Wallabies man penalised for use of the forearm in the carry.

Cheika outlined his issues with the incident in a post-match news conference.

He also claimed "administrators are spooking referees" due to their awarding of suspensions after the fact, while the coach was bemused to hear England's Piers Francis had evaded a ban at his own hearing.

"It was pretty funny because I thought I'd seen that [Patchell] tackle before," Cheika said. "It could have been Reece Hodge...

"I'm not sure. But when our guy makes that tackle and has the high-tackle framework in his head, he gets suspended. When this guy doesn't think about the high-tackle framework, we get penalised.

"You've seen it. As a former player, I'm embarrassed about that."

He added: "I don't know the rules anymore. Honestly, I don't know the rules anymore.

"They all seem spooked. Everyone seems worried about stuff so much. I'm not sure why they're worried - players aren't worried.

"Then it's affecting everything else on the field as well, decisions on all types of crazy stuff. Then I hear that the English guy got off at the suspension thing. Wow.

"I've not said anything there, have I? It just shows if you're not confused, maybe the floodlights going out at the end was a symbol.

"The administrators are spooking referees. The referees are worried about making the wrong decisions and they're becoming ultra cautious about everything, and it's not inviting to the fans.

"Why should we be having booing out there in a game like that with those types of crowds? There shouldn't be people booing - and they're not booing the players either. That shouldn't be happening."

Asked if rugby was becoming "soft", Cheika replied: "It's a tough one, right? Very tough.

"You've got to take care and look after players but not to an extreme where you're just looking after players for doctors and lawyers. Look after players for players."

Australia captain Michael Hooper conceded the Wallabies left themselves with too much to do against Wales after a poor first half on Sunday.

In what will surely be the key fixture in Pool D at the Rugby World Cup, Wales got the better of a strong-finishing Australia 29-25, having led 23-8 at the break.

Tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Hooper himself set up a tense finish, but the Wallabies could not quite wrestle back control of the match.

Hooper was disappointed but keen to move on quickly, knowing Australia cannot afford to spend too long reflecting on a defeat that likely sends them into the same side of the draw as England and New Zealand.

"It was a close game between two very willing teams and it came down to the wire," he said.

"It was 17-6 [in the second half] - we had the momentum, we just gave away too many in the first half. In particular the back-to-back points really hurt us.

"Congratulations to Wales for holding us out.

"We'll review it now. Recovery is key. We'll review it pretty hard, but in this format of competition, you've got to move on pretty quickly."

Coach Michael Cheika offered a blunt assessment of Australia's defeat, adding: "What went wrong? We just lost by a couple of points - it was a tight contest and that's the way it goes sometimes."

Warren Gatland was delighted to see Wales edge past Australia in a bruising Rugby World Cup encounter he acknowledged they might well have lost previously.

The Six Nations Grand Slam champions raced out to a 23-8 half-time lead before Australia built momentum in the second period and set up a nervy finish with tries from Dane Haylett-Petty and Michael Hooper.

But Wales clung on to take a 29-25 victory and seize control of Pool D, potentially avoiding England and New Zealand in the quarter-finals and semis.

Gatland saw this as the type of clash Wales would have come up short in prior to the last 12 months in which they have forged a steely reputation, also beating Australia in a Test last November.

"It was pretty special," he told ITV Sport. "It was a good first half and we hung on in the second half.

"Australia came at us and the boys are pretty sore and battered in the changing rooms. It was a really tough physical game - and those are the ones in the past that we've been losing.

"It was nice to hold on at the end and I thought our bench were fantastic and gave us some real momentum and fresh legs when we needed them."

He added: "We're really pleased to get that win - it takes a little of the pressure off us. Now we're kind of in control of our own destiny in terms of what happens."

Alun Wyn Jones, making a record 130th appearance, praised Wales' character but was slightly concerned by another "tentative" second half.

Wales had similarly built a big lead against Georgia before slowing after the break, their 29-point half-time advantage failing to increase as they won 43-14.

"I'm pretty happy with the character we showed - particularly in the second half," Jones said.

"At times, it did feel a bit like the Georgia game, where we had a great first half and were a bit tentative in the second half. We'll have a look at that, but I'm pleased with the result."

Wales were beaten in three of their four Rugby World Cup warm-up matches, but this, a pool game against Australia, was different.

The expectation had been building for some time, with the winners almost certain to top Pool D and therefore avoid a daunting path through the tournament that would likely include England in the quarter-finals and New Zealand in the semis.

"If Wales can win [against Australia] then I expect them to do good things," former captain Sam Warburton told Omnisport.

And just as at the Six Nations, where they celebrated a stunning Grand Slam triumph, Wales stepped up when it mattered most and just about got the job done against regular World Cup foes.

Wales had been beaten by the Wallabies at three consecutive World Cups but ended that run in battling fashion, having also scraped through in the same fixture last November for their first victory over Australia in almost 10 years.

Warren Gatland's side have become the men for the big occasion over the past 12 months and yet may not now have to play an elite side again until the semi-finals.

Perhaps this result says more about Australia, who attempted a brave fightback but won just four Tests in 2018. Michael Cheika's side did not lack for courage but some basic errors at key times meant their World Cup chances took a major hit.

If Wales are to become just the second team - after England in 2003 - to follow up a Six Nations or Rugby Championship success by becoming world champions, it was vital to end their Australia hoodoo listed below.
 

2007: Wales 20-32 AUSTRALIA (pool stage)

After consecutive quarter-final appearances in the prior two finals, Wales would have expected to progress from their pool in 2007. But they were hit by a setback when Australia tore through them in a brutal first-half showing.

The Welsh were 25-3 down at the break and left to tussle with Fiji for second place. A painful late defeat to the Flying Fijians in their final pool match resulted in an early exit.


2011: Wales 18-21 AUSTRALIA (bronze final)

Wales got revenge over Fiji four years later with a pool-stage thrashing but they could not get one over Australia. They avoided the Wallabies in a run to the semi-finals, but the sides' respective defeats to France and New Zealand set up a bronze final meeting.

The Welsh attack could not fire as it had earlier in the tournament and Australia eased to victory, with Leigh Halfpenny's try rescoring some balance to the scoreline but coming far too late.


2015: AUSTRALIA 15-6 Wales (pool stage)

Neither Australia nor Wales were the big-name casualties in a packed Pool A, as England fell at the first hurdle on home turf, but a Twickenham clash to close their pool campaigns would decide who topped the group.

There was not a single try but Bernard Foley's boot proved the difference as the Wallabies defended doggedly, avoiding South Africa in the last eight and enjoying a run all the way to the final. The Springboks dumped out Wales, who could understandably be sick of the sight of Australia by this stage.


2019: Australia 25-29 WALES (pool stage)

Coming into their second pool match as Six Nations Grand Slam champions and having beaten Australia less than 12 months previously, Wales were finally ready to best the Wallabies on the big stage, with the boots of Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell this time crucial.

Wales had to withstand second-half pressure but got the job done and might now be able to target a serious push for the title...

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