Jones & Cheika phoney war overshadows England vs Wallabies

LONDON (AP) The last rugby test of the year is between Eddie Jones and Michael Cheika.

That's the impression from the buildup for the match between England and Australia on Saturday at Twickenham.

The phoney war between the respective coaches and former Sydney clubmates started as soon as a 14-man England outsmarted Argentina last Saturday, and Jones attacked Australia's scrummaging, claiming illegalities.

That surprised because this is the same Wallabies scrum his team bossed around in June, when England beat them three times for an historic series whitewash. Nobody has feared Australia's scrum all year. Two weekends ago, they had three put-ins against France and lost all three.

''I dont know why he's worried about our scrum,'' Cheika was right to say.

But then Cheika has been equally odd. After his side was caned by Jerome Garces 13-3 in the penalty count in the loss to Ireland last Saturday (a week after Jaco Peyper blasted New Zealand 14-4 against Ireland), Cheika wanted to make contact with Alain Rolland, the referees' chief at World Rugby. He got no response and let it go. Then he was invited by Jones to a meeting on Friday with their ref, Peyper, but said he'll probably snub it.

''I don't think there's anything I can do to influence the referee,'' Cheika said.

Maybe not, but a face-to-face couldn't hurt to try and curry some empathy.

More so than the scrum, the Wallabies' sore point all year has been ill-discipline.

On this European tour, the Wallabies have lost the penalty count in three of the four tests. When England toured in June, Australia was penalized more in the first and third tests. The Wallabies lost the overall count 33-24, and Owen Farrell punished them. He made 23 of 24 goalkicks, including conversions.

The Wallabies have blooded 13 new players this year, and seven are in the matchday 23, but it's the veterans who have often undercut their progress. Nine yellow cards have been issued, two to new cap and lock Adam Coleman. The others sin-binnedwere old heads such as Scott Sio (twice), Israel Folau, Michael Hooper, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, and Bernard Foley.

More often than not, the Wallabies have been rescued by center Tevita Kuridrani, who has dotted down in all four tests on tour, the best run of his international career. But he wouldn't be starting if Samu Kerevi hadn't seriously injured his ankle before the tour. The season has come full circle for him, as he started against England in June and was demoted afterwards.

Back then, the power and resolve of the English forwards prevailed. They had strength and numbers in rucks and breakdowns, and disrupted scrumhalf Nick Phipps, whose sprayed passes didn't serve Foley well. England's reserves also proved to be better.

All three tests were different.

At the first in Brisbane, the Wallabies rallied to within four, went through 11 phases, Kuridrani dropped the ball, and England scored at the other end. At the second in Melbourne, England had to make 200 tackles and repel Australian attacks for 30 minutes to win. The finale in Sydney was a nine-tries shootout that England won with five minutes left.

From that last test, both teams are changed by an identical five: A lock, two loose forwards, and two backs each.

England will miss workaholic No. 8 Billy Vunipola, who was injured, in their shot at a national record-tying 14th consecutive win, while the Wallabies may come to regret more the absence of scrumhalf Will Genia, who wasn't released by his Stade Francais club.

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Lineups:

England: Mike Brown, Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Marland Yarde, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Nathan Hughes, Tom Wood, Chris Robshaw, George Kruis, Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (captain), Mako Vunipola. Reserves: Jamie George, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Charlie Ewels, Teimana Harrison, Danny Care, Ben Te'o, Henry Slade.

Australia: Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Tevita Kuridrani, Reece Hodge, Sefa Naivalu, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Lopeti Timani, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), Scott Sio. Reserves: Tolu Latu, James Slipper, Tom Robertson, Dean Mumm, Sean McMahon, Nick Frisby, Quade Cooper, Henry Speight.