Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Australia v England: Why England have the most to gain

Maro Itoje sprints with team mates during the England training session on the Gold Coast. Photo / Getty
Maro Itoje sprints with team mates during the England training session on the Gold Coast. Photo / Getty

Crystal ball time for teams who will make some serious advances ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The notion may not be palatable but England have the most to gain and look as though they are on the right track with the mischievously workaholic Eddie Jones leading their heavily-funded moves.

Jones gathered together the untidy ends of their 2015 World Cup campaign and steered the side to Six Nations superiority. There were patches of regal rugby but much of it was workmanlike and a case of getting the job done. England ticked that on their job sheet.

Now they are in a different world for a three-test series against the Wallabies where skills are prized much more than muscle and where pace married to accuracy are valued above other attributes.

Jones understands the new environment but whether he has the players with a suitable game plan to lay down a template at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, is part of the huge chunk of intrigue leading into this match.

There have been heavy suggestions league convert Ben Te'o was set for a start at second five eighths to bring a different dimension to the two-pivot system England have also used. However Te'o has been too sore to run at training at their Gold Coast base amid chat if he cannot start, then Luther Burrell will be the physical force.

Equally absorbing is the notion that Chris Robshaw, England's deposed captain but player of the Six Nations tournament, may be shunted aside at blindside flanker.

That would be a consequence of Joe Launchbury and George Kruis being used as locks and pushing the young, athletic Maro Itoje to blindside flanker.

Robshaw missed the pre-tour win against Wales because he was at his brother's wedding and there has been growing appreciation about Itoje's talents. He plays looseforward in club rugby and his breakdown work and lineout ability would give extra thrust to England's forwards.

A loose trio of James Haskell, Billy Vunipola and Itoje would provide a real contrast to the Wallaby loose trio where David Pocock and Michael Hooper are expected to operate in tandem alongside Scott Fardy.

- NZ Herald

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