Wallabies' comments have England fired up
For all the pre-game talk of England's "pretty" wingers, it's the team's no-nonsense front row that could have the biggest say in Saturday's (Sunday NZT) Cook Cup match against Australia.
The Wallabies' problems at scrum time resurfaced in their 33-6 loss to France last weekend, even conceding a morale-sapping penalty try in the second half to cap a miserable performance in Paris.
England has a recent history of dominance over Australia in that department, notably when prop Andrew Sheridan was at his most destructive in English wins over their old rivals in 2005 and '07, and will hope for more of the same at Twickenham this weekend.
"Any time you go into a test match or any game of rugby, you want that forward dominance," England prop Dan Cole said. "They've already mentioned they'll be looking to dominate us, so bring it on.
"Australia are reeling after getting beaten by France in the set-piece so they'll come out firing."
Cole was referring to comments made by Australia hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who said his pack was looking to reassert itself at Twickenham and "dominate the English scrum."
However, it was a line by fit-again Australia winger Digby Ioane that really grabbed the attention this week.
"The England wingers are pretty, really good looking," he said. "I just can't wait to go against them."
Ioane may have been speaking tongue-in-cheek but his comments could serve to fire up England widemen Charlie Sharples and Chris Ashton, who returns from a one-week suspension for picking up three yellow cards in domestic league action.
Ashton has yet to score a try for England in 2012 and missing out on a chance to end his barren run in the opening autumn international against Fiji, which England beat 54-12 on Saturday, hit him hard.
"It was so frustrating I had to leave (Twickenham) after 60 minutes," Ashton said. "I couldn't watch it any more.
"It was frustrating in general to see so many tries being scored and not being able to be involved. It's killing me not scoring for England."
Ashton has scored three tries in three tests against Australia, a haul that includes the memorable length-of-the-field effort that the Saracens winger finished off in England's 35-18 win at Twickenham in 2010.
The origins of the try came from turnover ball behind England's own try line. Lancaster has given his young team license to do just the same on Saturday.
"Absolutely, of course," Lancaster said. "While not all our execution was there last week, our mentality and our intent to play was there and I don't see that changing.
"The players have a license to go if they feel it is on."
Outfought against France, the Australians have some making up to do if they are to avoid going down to a third straight loss to England.
"We've had to overcome some pretty big hurdles - things also haven't been perfect either," said head coach Robbie Deans, in reference to a lengthy injury list that has affected his selection plans. "Last week's performance was poor, we're making no excuses about that."
Lock Kane Douglas and centre Pat McCabe are the latest players in the treatment room while England will be buoyed to see influential flanker David Pocock fail to recover from a calf problem.
England's only change sees Ashton return in place of Ugo Monye, an alteration that means Sharples will move over from the right to the left wing.