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

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

England are set for a “gladiatorial” clash with Australia on Saturday and Ellis Genju has been backed to set an aggressive tone in his clash with the giant known as the “Tongan Thor”.

The tourists enter the second Test 1-0 up in the series and will be desperate to prove a point after last weekend’s 30-28 defeat. That failure in Perth was based on Art WallabiesUltimate dominance lies ahead – despite being a man short for more than half the game – and the England team is intent on a powerful response, according to their coach Richard Cockerill.

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

England forward pack enjoying ‘gladiatorial’ battle against Australia, says Richard Cockerill

“The physical battles ahead are always decisive. We look forward to it. Come on. We want it to be gladiatorial. We want it to be physical. This first encounter is going to be great. Let’s see. That’s what the game is about. Let’s enjoy the physical parts, the flashy parts and within the laws of the game, let’s get into it.”

Australia recalled Taniel “Tongan Thor” Tupou from the tight end and he set the stage for a titanic personal battle with Genge, saying: “You want to be better than your opposition. He will try to give it to me and break me. I will do exactly the same. I want to give it to him.’

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

“Obviously he (Tupou) is exceptionally explosive with the ball in his hands. He is a good operator of standard formations, but his shot in the field, with and without the ball, is quite good. It should be a good battle between him and Ellis. All this sets the stage for a pleasant, tasty evening.

“Ellis is quite self-motivated. He led very well, he liked to lead and it made him play better. Tupou hasn’t played in a while, so he better show up and perform if he’s going to start challenging Ellis before the game. Ellis will continue his game. He was very, very nice.

“I’m sure they (the wallabies) are saying the same thing as us. If Gengi gets the ball, they will want to hit it. If he (Tupou) gets the ball, we’ll want to hit him.”

Cockerill has backed Ellis Genge (right) to lead England's physical battle against Australia

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

Cockerill had the experience of coming to this city with England, but he did not like the reminder. He was a key member of the Red Rose team that suffered a record 76-0 defeat here in 1998, at the start of the so-called ‘Tour of Hell’.

Asked what his memories of that dark episode were, he quipped: “That one, 76-0? It was really sh***. Is that enough?” A few push-ups. I’ve erased it from my memory!’

Having endured several trials in that ill-fated Southern Hemisphere crusade, Cockerill was adamant that it would not turn into another journey through hell, saying: “Not a chance.” We are very ready for battle. The first test was intense. It could have gone either way. We’ve really rolled up our sleeves, put on our elastics and come here to win the game tomorrow night.”

Australia have won the last 10 Tests in a row at Suncorp Stadium, but Cockerill played down the significance of that record from an English perspective. “It’s just a game,” he said. “It’s just pitching. Ninety percent of our guys don’t even know it (10 in a row). Actually, I didn’t know that until you told me! We just keep playing. It’s not a factor for us.”

Cockerill says England are not fazed by Australia's recent high record at Suncorp Stadium

Cockerill says England are not fazed by Australia’s recent high record at Suncorp Stadium

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