The 2019 Rugby World Cup is approaching the business end and the first knockout game is a cracker. A rematch of the 2003 final, where a Jonny Wilkinson-inspired England broke host nation Australia’s hearts, England v Australia is a game that needs no introduction. We preview the first 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Red Rose to apply the pressure

England have looked good without looking great so far in Japan and emerged from their weather-hit group stage with three bonus point wins, topping Pool C in the process. Efficient is probably the best word to sum up Eddie Jones’ men up to now, but the Australian is slowly showing more and more of his hand.

Henry Slade returns to the back line this weekend, with George Ford dropping out amid a shuffle. This, combined with the presence of Anthony Watson gives England defensive solidity, along with a swift, hungry back three. Expect the Red Rose to revert to type, apply pressure through a kicking game, then counter-attack any sloppy clearance kicks with gusto. England are just 1/3 to advance to the semi-finals after 80 minutes, while the handicap sits at 9 points.

Don’t rule out Australia

Australia are yet to truly fire for a full 80 minutes so far in Japan, but in passages they have looked excellent. After a shocking start to their match against Wales, Michael Cheika’s men stormed back into the game and they had opportunities to win in a close loss, while they looked classy pulling away from Fiji in their opening fixture.

So much relies on Michael Hooper and David Pocock, who will have to outclass the young English back-row tandem of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. Cheika has also made a midfield change, with the dynamic Samu Kerevi joined by exciting young prospect and Queensland Reds team-mate Jordan Petaia. These big carriers should create plenty of space for Marika Koroibete and Reece Hodge on the flanks, especially if Kurtley Beale pops up in the midfield as a second playmaker.

The Wallabies are 11/4 outsiders but always have a great performance in them, as England will undoubtedly know, being knocked out by Australia on home soil at the last Rugby World Cup, while it was only this summer that Cheika’s men beat New Zealand by a record margin.

England to prove too much

Expect a suffocating pressure game by England, with a stout defence and solid kick-chase ratcheting up the pressure on the Wallabies as the game goes on. England aren’t afraid to kick points and scoreboard presence is vital in the early stages of knockout games.

As the match wears on and England’s bigger, and arguably better, forward replacements come on, look for England to stretch clear and make it seven wins on the bounce against Australia. Jones’ side to win by 20 points or more has been enhanced from 16/5 to 4/1.

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