England vow to turn up the needle in series decider against Australia


England have warned the Wallabies they will dial up their abrasive approach in Saturday’s tour decider after claims from Australia about the level of niggle in the series, with the forwards coach Richard Cockerill insisting it has been “pretty tame” so far.

The buildup to the third Test has been dominated by Australia accusing England of “off the ball stuff” in Perth and Brisbane while the ferocity with which Wednesday night’s State Of Origin decider was played out has steeled both sides before Saturday’s clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

England raced into a 19-0 lead last week after Ellis Genge set the tone by thundering into the Wallabies captain, Michael Hooper, bringing a physicality that Australia could not live with. Genge was involved in some afters with the scrum-half Nic White as well as Hooper while in the first Test, Australia’s Darcy Swain was sent off for a headbutt on Jonny Hill amid provocation from the England lock.

White said he was surprised by the wind-up tactics employed by England, prompting Eddie Jones to respond by calling the former Exeter scrum-half “the biggest niggler of all-time”. Asked about comments from the Wallabies camp, Cockerill said: “I didn’t see one of our blokes getting sent off for a headbutt. I keep hearing about the niggle that England have brought. I don’t know how Aussie rugby is but I don’t see that as niggle. It has been pretty tame so far. So we just have to get on with our game with a good set piece, tackle hard, clean rucks, be as physical as we can, abrasive as we can be within the laws of the game. I don’t think it has been a particularly dirty series so far at all.

“You want rivalry, don’t you? You want spikiness to games. I don’t watch rugby league but I watched Origin because they were going to run into each other like mad men. The first 15-20 minutes on Saturday, let’s bring it on because that’s what it is all about. It is great, isn’t it? They have talked themselves up so we are going to have to match that and more.

“We are going to come with more physicality. We are going to come with even more purpose in how we play because every time we play we get better. That’s the challenge for us. I expect them to come hard at us. They’ll have a reaction because in that first 30 minutes or so [in Brisbane] we beat them physically. So they’re going to come with more physicality – well, no surprise, so are we.”

Jamie George, meanwhile, revealed England are expecting a “wounded animal” after Australia sustained a first loss in Brisbane in 11 matches and Hooper confirmed the Wallabies are set on starting fast at the Sydney Cricket Ground. “[We want] to come out with good momentum and stack it on and put these guys under pressure,” he said. “[England] did a great job doing that to us and we’re wanting to change that route.”