Wallabies aim to bounce back in London while England winger Ashton set for return at Twickenham with try record in his sights
Defiant Australia coach Deans means business
LONDON // Robbie Deans has been in a bullish mood in the lead-up up to the Cook Cup clash between England and Australia at Twickenham today and the Wallabies coach even had room for generosity towards his critics after his side's terrible loss to France.
David Campese, the former Australia wing, led the renewed chorus to have Deans ousted after Australia's 33-6 defeat in Paris last week.
Campese claimed the coach was "destroying Australian rugby", but Deans refused to be drawn into a war of words with the player synonymous with Australian success.
"People are entitled to their opinion and it is part of the territory," Deans said. "Living in this arena is about pressure but this is not about me, it is about the team and they are spending all their energy getting this right. It was poor and it is something we have talked about and we have to address, but talking will not be enough."
Like Stuart Lancaster, his England counterpart, Deans calls on a former international to hand the starting XV their jerseys ahead of every match. Campese performed the role in 2008 before Australia registered a rare victory over South Africa in Durban and Deans was magnanimous enough to suggest that Campese could be in line to do so again.
"I would love to have him back," he said.
Honesty seems to have been the best policy for this Australian squad. Their set-piece was torn apart by the French and they lost four scrums in all, three of which were on their own feed.
The forwards held clear-the-air talks after the match and Deans has put his pack through two sessions to rectify the shortcomings.
There is little any team can do to correct such a damaged front line in such a short space of time and Stephen Moore, the hooker, pointed towards a difference in culture.
English forwards love nothing more than to assert their manliness in the dark recesses of a pack down, and this week Dan Cole, the England prop, was true to form stating that he was looking to "pulverise" the Australian front row.
"The spotlight is not on the scrum in Super Rugby in the same way it is over here but that does not mean we cannot compete in this aspect here," the Saudi Arabia-born Moore said. "We don't have the depth of front rowers like England, France and South Africa and we don't see it as a test of strength."
England do, however, and Cole will love nothing more than to replicate the extraordinary performance of Andrew Sheridan, who in 2007 almost single-handedly destroyed the Australian pack in repeated scrums during the World Cup quarter-final in Marseille.
England come into the match buoyed by the fact that they have beaten Australia the last two times the teams have met. England won 21-20 in Sydney in June 2010, and five months later registered a record-equalling 17-point victory at Twickenham, scoring 35 points, including two Chris Ashton tries.
Ashton returns to the side having missed last week's walkover against Fiji because of suspension. If he scores a fourth try against Australia he will equal the England record held by Ben Cohen and Rory Underwood.
The former rugby league player has scored 15 tries in 26 appearances for England.
"He has a high work-rate … He's a real threat," said Adam Ashley-Cooper, who will earn his 75th cap today, said. "You can see his league background. He's a mongrel player and you can see the desperation in him, and I don't mean that in a negative way."