England and Australia have been the fiercest of sporting rivals ever since 1882 when Australian cricketers beat England at The Oval for the first time, “killing” English cricket, with Oz’s imperial masters, quite dramatically, declaring thereafter that “the body (of English cricket) will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia.”
So too on the rugby field has this rivalry extended itself since 1909, when the Wallabies beat England 9-3 in Blackheath in the first rugby union Test match between the two sides.
Ye Ol’ Rivals will contest their 51st Test and while pundits and fans alike are declaring a thumping English victory, the record books show it could be much tighter than expected.
1 It’s pretty much even-steven …
In the 50 Test matches played prior to Saturday’s encounter, England hold the upper-hand … just-just. They have won 25 Test to the Australian’s 24, with a 15-all affair played in Twickenham in 1997 the only draw between the two nations.
2 … unless you consider the last six Tests
Since 2016, England have dominated the fixture, beating the Wallabies on six occasions, all under the tutelage of coach Eddie Jones. In those games, the English won 39-28, 23-7, 44-40 - all away in Australia that year - then 37-21 at Twickenham, also in 2016. In 2017 and last year, they went on to defeat their fiercest of sporting rivals 30-6 and 37-18, both at Twickenham, respectively.
3 The World Cup is their proving grounds
Since the hosting of the first World Cup in 1987, the two nations have faced each other in every tournament, barring the 1999 and 2011 competitions. That’s a total of six Tests out of eight World Cups, excluding Saturday’s match.
Both have won three games each, including one final apiece. And these encounters are super, super tight, with perhaps the exception being the 2015 encounter when the Wallabies won 33-13 - subsequently their last victory over the English.
1987 Pool stages: Australia won 19-6
1991 Final: Australia won 12-6
1995 Quarter-final England won 25-22
2003 Final: England won 20-17
2007 Quarter-final: England won 12-10
2015 Poll stages: Australia on 33-13
4 Battle of the big boss men
Coaches Michael Cheika and Eddie Jones have a long history together. Both are the product of Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club - the Galloping Greens - based in Sydney, where they would have played together as club teammates in the 1980s, both played for New South Wales and both would eventually start their coaching careers in earnest at their beloved club. Neither played for the Wallabies.
In spite of this shared history, the two men are now the fiercest of rivals, seemingly practicing an active disdain for one another.
Jones, seven years senior to Cheika, has been a coach since 1994, and has coached Australia, Japan and England at Test level. Jones’ has a wealth of experience, having been at the helm of 153 Test matches alone, of which he has won 104. His honours include a Tri-Nations title (2001), two Bledisloe Cups (2001, 2002), two Six Nations Championships (2016, 2017); the Asian Rugby Championship from 2012 to 2015, a Pacific Nations Cup in 2015 and while coach of the Brumbies, a Super Rugby title in 2001, to name arguably his biggest accomplishments.
Cheika, in comparison, is a junior in the Test arena, even though he has been in charge of 64 matches as Wallaby coach. The Australian coach has a 50 percent win ratio with the national team and has only won one game in eight attempts against England, the aforementioned 2015 encounter.
Even so, his honours remain impressive, having won a Rugby Championship title (2015), a Super Rugby title as Waratahs coach in 2014, and the Heineken Cup in 2009 when he was in charge of Irish outfit Leinster.
Both have been World Rugby’s Coach of the Year - Jones in 2017 and Cheika in 2015 and both have been denied holding aloft the Webb Ellis Trophy by losing the final of the World Cup in 2003 for Jones and 2015 for Cheika, respectively.