England told to shoulder weight of World Cup expectation
The hosts’ tournament will be over in a mere 16 days should the Wallabies depart Twickenham as victors tonight, transforming the Pool A showdown into a do-or-die clash with far reaching implications.
England start as marginal favourites and have won four of their last five matches against their old rivals, but must come to terms with the reality of playing knockout rugby two matches early.
“You have to keep telling yourselves how lucky and blessed we are rather than being stressed by the pressure of it all,” forwards coach Rowntree said.
“You can feel the weight of the nation willing us on against Australia and I envy the guys who will be on the field. I remember that feeling as a player.
“We’ve trained exceptionally well this week. Losing to Wales last week hardened us and there’s been a real focus about what we’ve done. We’ll have to have composure if we are to beat one of the best teams in the world.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika, meanwhile, has laughed off criticism from Sir Clive Woodward after England’s World Cup-winning mastermind insisted the Wallabies are “not the brightest team”. “Mr Woodward’s right. I only got 300 out of 500 in my high school certificate,” Cheika said. “Sometimes it’s not intelligence but emotional intelligence that helps in this game. It’s not the IQ, it’s the EQ. So hopefully we’ve got a bit of EQ amongst us. We’re doing our best for our country. I understand it’s all a bit of fun and games, a bit of a snipe here and a snipe there, so I’m pretty comfortable with all that stuff.”
Australia conducted their captain’s run at Twickenham to the sound of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck playing on the stadium loudspeakers.
“We know the pain and how difficult the game’s going to be so we just want to have a bit of fun as well,” said Cheika.