By Mitch Phillips
OITA, Japan (Reuters) – England have rubbished suggestions that a two-week break before their World Cup quarter-final against Australia has left them undercooked, with coaches having to step in to cool things down at a white-hot training session on Tuesday.
With their final pool game against France cancelled at the weekend due to the approach of Typhoon Hagibis, England will face the Wallabies on Saturday not having played since Oct. 5 when they beat Argentina 39-10.
Even that game, which came on the back of comfortable wins over Tonga and the United States, was pretty straightforward after an early red card took the sting out of the Pumas.
While some have seized on the long layoff as a possible weakness in their preparations, fullback Elliot Daly said the squad were “firing” after full-on training sessions.
“It was good to get training as quickly as possible. To get down there (short-term base in Miyazaki) and have a good three days to make sure we are ready for this week, firing, was what we needed to do,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.
“The way we train is to mimic games and the way we have trained over the last three or four weeks especially and playing games at the weekend has gone really well for us.
“There is a lot of energy on the training pitch. We had to rein it back a bit today because the boys were getting a bit too excited. That is the overarching theme for everybody – excited to see where we can take this.”
Number eight Billy Vunipola took part in that session and looks to be recovering well from his sprained ankle, but winger Jack Nowell missed out and is a doubt for the game.
Assistant coach John Mitchell said it was very likely Vunipola would be fit.
“He is a very important player to us,” Mitchell said. “He loves to get the ball in his hands and he is very good at regaining and retaining momentum.”
Should Vunipola not make it, Mark Wilson, named England’s player of the series after the November internationals where he chiefly played at the back of the scrum, is the likely replacement.
Despite heading into the match on the back of six successive wins against the Wallabies, Mitchell said he was in no doubt that they would bring something unexpected to the party in a bid to end that streak.
“At the end of the day, having witnessed a number of teams play against Australia and also played against them myself as a youngster, they have always been highly intellectual in the way that they play the game and have always been clever and it something that I respect,” Mitchell said.
“They always have the ability to surprise. The love ball in their hands which is something which they thrive on. “
French referee Jerome Garces will referee the game, tournament officials announced on Tuesday.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)