After a scintillating Pool stages, the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan is down to just eight contenders to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup on the first weekend of November, with England featuring in the first quarter-final encounter against old enemies Australia in a repeat of the 2003 final.
Sporting rivalry between England and Australia dates back as far as sporting folklore, through cricket and now rugby, but the record between the nations leaves honours almost even.
International meetings between the sides have resulted in 25 Wallaby wins, 24 England wins and a drawn Test match; while Rugby World Cup encounters between the nations are even, with three wins apiece.
England v Australia
Venue: Oita Stadium
Watch live: ITV, Saturday, 08:15am (UK Time)
Australia won the most recent encounter on the global stage when they met in Pool stages in 2015, but England have knockout stage pedigree, defeating the Wallabies in at the last-eight stage in the Stade Vélodrome in 2007 – and no Englishman will forget the 2003 Rugby World Cup and Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop-goal.
Fast-forward to 2019 and England have an unblemished run in Japan, winning their first three Pool C matches, before Typhoon Hagibis saw their final match split as a scoreless draw, leading Eddie Jones side to being Pool winners.
Australia, though, did find themselves runners-up in Pool D having been defeated by Warren Gatland’s Wales – but could have found themselves in even more treacherous waters had they not fought from behind to beat Fiji in their opening Pool encounter.
Form is certainly with England, who have looked a more imposing side in their Pool performances; their main question is whether a two-week break from action will aid or hinder them.
Michael Cheika’s Wallabies, meanwhile, have conceded tries in all their matches so far and have been pushed to the brink, eventually overturned by Wales, leaving many to question whether they have final-four pedigree this time around.
Ben’s Prediction: England win by 12 points
Matches odds with Coral: England 1/3 Draw 25/1 Australia 5/2
Coral verdict with Harry Aitkenhead: “England are hot favourites to beat Australia in the first quarter-final at this Rugby World Cup and they handicap line is now at -8.5, having opened up at -7.5. There is a feeling that England shouldn’t be too affected by the extended break and superstitious punters may also have one eye on Eddie Jones’ dominance over counterpart Michael Cheika in their head-to-head matches so far.
“The second half is the narrow favourite, at 5/6, to be the highest scoring half in this clash and that seems to be a popular pick. A lot of games in this tournament have gone on to explode a bit later on and the increased number of red cards is also adding to the increase of second half points.”