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Wallabies in a struggle to keep up with the Joneses

LIVEWIRE England second-rower Maro Itoje wins a line-out ball in the first Test in Brisbane. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt.
LIVEWIRE England second-rower Maro Itoje wins a line-out ball in the first Test in Brisbane. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt. DAVE HUNT

ENGLAND second-rower Maro Itoje epitomised the team's new-found belief and love of "Bodyline" rugby in its 39-28 upset win in the first Test in Brisbane.

But former Wallaby Rod Kafer believes Australia can match the visitors' enthusiasm in the must-win second Test in Melbourne this Saturday night.

Kafer marvelled at the physicality young Itoje and England flanker and man-of-the-match James Haskell brought to the first of the three-match series.

"What a phenomenal talent Itoje is. Haskell was outstanding and the England back row was good," Kafer told Australian Regional Media.

"He (Itoje) is 21, excitable, has great energy and is athletic with an unbelievable skill set.

"What a player."

Kafer said England was in total control on Saturday night after bouncing back from an early 10-0 deficit before recording its first ever win in Brisbane in five attempts.

"I think England was patient and the Wallabies got flustered," he said.

"England was masterful at controlling the tempo of the game. They understood when they needed to slow it down and speed it up, tactically kicking when they had to, and they ran when they had to."

Former playmaker Kafer, who appeared in 12 Tests for the Wallabies, was surprised at the lack of discipline Australia showed in Brisbane - they gave away 15 penalties while being dominated in the set pieces and rucks and mauls.

But after bowing out from last year's World Cup with a 33-13 loss to Australia, England has recent match fitness from a victorious Six Nations campaign and is refreshed under new coach and former Wallabies mentor Eddie Jones.

Australia's weekend hit-out was its first Test of 2016.

"The ill-discipline did surprise me because under (coach) Michael Cheika they were a very disciplined side last year," Kafer said.

"They'll work on that. I think their breakdown work was poor and they weren't as effective as they would have liked to have been.

"But that's also because it was the first Test match of the year - they'll be better for the run.

"It's a three-Test series, so they'll get an opportunity for redemption (this Saturday).

Much has been made of Jones' added motivation to extract revenge on the Wallabies, after he was sacked from the head coaching role at the end of 2005.

But Kafer said he believes Jones, who he won a Super Rugby title under at the Brumbies in 2001, is simply one of the best coaches in rugby, which allowed him to get his Australian tour off to a winning start.

"There's a bracket of three or four of the great coaches around the world and he (Jones) is one of them," Kafer said.

Topics:  eddie jones england michael cheika wallabies


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