England v Australia: Michael Hooper braced for World Cup quarter-final battle

Michael Hooper and David Pocock
Rugby World Cup quarter-final: England v Australia
Venue: Oita Stadium Date: Saturday, 19 October Kick-off: 08:15 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and online with text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Australia's Michael Hooper says he is prepared for England flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill to try usurp him and David Pocock at the breakdown in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final.

Curry and Underhill said on Thursday it would be "surreal" to face two players they idolised growing up.

"It's going to be a good battle," said Australia captain Hooper.

"We've done our work on them. I think they're great players. They are a top-tier international back row."

tom Curry and Sam Underhill
Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have been dubbed the 'Kamikaze Kids' by England coach Eddie Jones

Pocock, 31, has announced he will retire from international rugby at the end of his third World Cup campaign, while Hooper, 27, will be playing his 99th Test when he takes on England in Oita.

Underhill, 23, and Curry, 21, have only 28 caps between them and will be starting together for just the fourth time.

However, Hooper said that his and Pocock's experience is not necessarily an advantage.

He added: "It's great to have experience but also being youthful is of benefit. I have been in their shoes before, being wide-eyed, ready to attack things.

"The ruck is a great part of the game. It's going to be, as always, a huge part of the Test match."

Tale of four flankers
PocockHooperUnderhillCurry
Age31272321
Caps 82981216
Test debutNov 2008Jun 2012Jun 2017Jun 2017
Carries at RWC 201929401026
Tackles at RWC 201929192629

Frenchman Jerome Garces, who will referee the match on Saturday, was criticised for being too lenient at the breakdown by some South African pundits in the wake of the Springboks' defeat by New Zealand on the tournament's opening weekend.

Hooper, whose side struggled with discipline early in the tournament, is confident the Wallabies can now work with whatever interpretation the Frenchman brings to the contest.

"I have observed the ruck being refereed a multitude of ways, not any one way in particular. So, it's made it quite tricky there," he said.

"How we start the start the game and definitely adapt to what is going on out there is pretty crucial for us."

'We have been able to get out teeth into Australia'

England scrum-half Ben Youngs says the cancellation of their final pool-stage match against France because of Typhoon Hagibis had given them the chance to go into more depth in their analysis of the Wallabies.

Eddie Jones' side will have had a fortnight out of action when they kick-off in Oita, with their last outing a 39-10 win over a 14-man Argentina on 5 October.

"We have been able to get our teeth into Australia earlier, look at their footage and the pattern we want to play," said Youngs.

Henry Slade
Henry Slade's last competitive start was for Exeter in June

"We feel fresh and ready to go."

England coach Jones has brought centre Henry Slade into the side as part of a backline reshuffle that saw pool-stage fly-half George Ford dropped to the bench and his preferred Six Nations 10-12-13 combination of Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Slade restored.

Slade's last international start was in March with his recovery from a knee injury restricting him to replacement appearances against Tonga and Argentina since.

Tuilagi believes the trio can rediscover their best form immediately, though.

"Henry is massive for us," he said.

"He can play, run, kick, he can do it all round, so for him to in our backline adds a massive part to our game.

"With Faz at 10, we have been together for a while and understand each other well. Hopefully that will come out tomorrow."

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Rugby Union Weekly's Chris Ashton makes World Cup quarter-final predictions

Teams

England: Daly; Watson, Slade, Tuilagi, May; Farrell (capt), Youngs; M Vunipola, George, Sinckler; Itoje, Lawes; Curry, Underhill, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Marler, Cole, Kruis, Ludlam, Heinz, Ford, Joseph.

Australia: Beale; Hodge, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete; Lealiifano, Genia; Alaalatoa, Latu, Sio; Arnold, Rodda; Naisarani, Hooper (capt), Pocock.

Replacements: Uelese, Slipper, Tupou, Coleman, Salakaia-Loto, White, Toomua, O'Connor.

Knockout-stage rules

What happens if there's a draw?
If scores are tied at full time teams will play 10 minutes of extra time each way
If there's still no winner 10 minutes of sudden death will follow where the first team to score wins
Finally if the scores are still tied a best-of-five place-kicking competition will take place

England v Australia rivalry

  • England and Australia have met 50 times. England have won 24 of those matches with Australia winning 25, a drawn game in 1997 completes the head-to-head record.
  • England and Australia have played each other six times in the World Cup, both sides winning three including a triumph each in the final: Australia beat England in 1991 at Twickenham and England exacted revenge in Sydney in 2003.
  • England have won their last six Tests against Australia, their longest winning run against their rivals. However, their last defeat against them came at the 2015 World Cup.

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Billy Vunipola says he often raises his performance levels when he's with his brother

Key player stats

  • England lock Maro Itoje won seven turnovers in the pool stage, the most of any player in the competition, despite playing just two games
  • Wing Jonny May will win his 50th cap for England - he is sixth on England's try-scoring list with 25 tries, but only two of those have come in World Cup matches (v Wales in 2015 and v Argentina in 2019)
  • Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie has scored a try in each of his three World Cup games, only Will Greenwood has scored in more consecutive games at the tournament for England (four in 2003)
  • Australia's Samu Kerevi beat 20 defenders across three appearances in the pool stage, the most of any centre in the competition and more than England's top two centres combined (Manu Tuilagi nine, Jonathan Joseph eight).

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