Australia and England will battle it out in three June Tests 'down under' for the Cook Cup this June.
This is probably the most intriguing of the three-Test June series. Not only are these two sides historical rivals but there’s also the added spice of Eddie Jones returning to Australia to take on his old mate, Michael Cheika. The current Aussie mentor was actually in the crowd taking notes when England won the Six Nations earlier this year.
So who will win the series and take Cook Cup honours? Let's take a look, shall we!
Australia v England | Saturday 11 June | Suncorp Stadium | 12:00
Australia v England | Saturday 18 June | AAMI Park | 12:00
Australia v England | Saturday 25 June | Allianz Stadium | 12:00
The Australian squad is missing a whole host of their veterans with the likes of Matt Giteau, Will Genia, Adam Ashley copper, and Drew Mitchell all either involved in the remainder of the French Top 14 season or having been given a break after an arduous European campaign. In their place come a whole host of youngsters. While Cheika is yet to announce his official squad for the incoming tour, he has named 10 uncapped players in his provisional 39 man squad.
A player who was a bit of a shock inclusion in the squad is Brumbies nine Nick Powell. Australia’s answer to Faf de Klerk – he’s got a very similar hairstyle style as well as a similar playing style – has made the majority of his 2016 Super Rugby appearances off the bench. He’s a rather interesting prospect but I personally was a bit surprised that Cheika selected him ahead of Rebels nine Nic Stirzacker.
Another left-field call that Cheika has made is to bring back loose forward Leroy Houston. The eighth man has been plying his trade out in England having moved to Bath back in 2013. He’s enjoyed a solid season for his club and will be moving back to the Queensland Reds come the start of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
Despite his European contingent missing out, Cheika still has some of his stalwarts to call upon. Steven Moore, Rory Arnold, James Horwill, Michael Hooper, David Pocock, and Dean Mumm will provide some much-needed experience in the pack while Rob Horne, Nick Phipps, Israel Folau, and Bernard Foley will be tasked with guiding some of the younger backs.
Australian Provisional Squad
Backs: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Adam Coleman, Scott Fardy, Liam Gill, James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Michael Hooper, James Horwill, Leroy Houston, Sekope Kepu Samu Kerevi, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon Stephen Moore, Dean Mumm, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Toby Smith
Forwards: Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Nick Frisby, Mike Harris, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rob Horne, Karmichael Hunt, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Eto Nabuli, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Joe Powell, Luke Morahan, Nick Phipps
So Jones returns home with an exciting young squad that will be hell bent on avenging last years’ World Cup defeat but does this new look side have the ability to win on Australian soil. Well if they can replicate some of the performances that they put in during the Six Nations then they are certainly in with a shout. They have a solid squad and their Grand Slam winning six nations campaign will have given them a massive confidence boost heading into this tour.
England Touring squad
Forwards: Dan Cole, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Clifford, Ellis Genge, Jamie George
Teimana Harrison, Dylan Hartley (captain) ,James Haskell, Paul Hill, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Matt Mullan, Chris Robshaw, Kyle Sinckler, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola
Backs Mike Brown, Alex Goode, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Marland Yarde, Elliot Daly, Jonathon Joseph, Henry Slade, Luther Burrell, Ben Te’o, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Danny Care, Ben Youngs
Verdict: England 2-1
Jones is a master tactician and while a lot of these Wallabies never played under him, you can bet your bottom dollar that he still knows their playing styles and weaknesses like the back of his hand. It’s well worth sticking some money on the tourists to win the first game between the two sides as they’re likely to open up at about 12/10. I think the Aussies will bounce back in Melbourne and level the series and then the English will nick a narrow win in Sydney and claim the Cook Cup.