It won’t be as personal but Nic White’s guard is still up as the Wallabies prepare to face England and their Australian coach and “king of mind games” Eddie Jones.
Fresh off a frustrating loss to Scotland that ended a five-game winning streak, the Wallabies will attempt to snap a seven-match losing run to England at a packed Twickenham Stadium on Saturday.
Their last meeting came in 2019, a comprehensive 40-16 defeat that knocked Australia out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage and ended Michael Cheika’s time as coach.
Cheika and Jones, once teammates at Randwick, enjoyed a long rivalry that peaked on the international stage when both would trade barbs in spicy Test build-ups.
But Australia arrived in London this week with an entirely new coaching staff, headed by New Zealander Dave Rennie, as well as a team starkly different to the one rolled by England in two years ago.
“It’ll be less personal for sure,” halfback White, who elevated his game during a 61-game stint in the English Premiership with Exeter between 2017-19, said.
“There’s always a lot in the media between Eddie and ‘Cheik’ … it’ll be a good chance after the (frustrating two-point loss to Scotland on the) weekend to focus on us.”
Yet White remained wary of Jones’s ways, particularly after he was recently singled out for praise by the former Wallabies coach.
“It’s nice for him to give us some praise but Eddie’s the king of mind games, so I’m not reading too much into what he says,” White said.
“He’s the type of guy you’d love to sit down and talk rugby with and hopefully one day we get that chance.”
England will be without prop Joe Marler, who has tested positive for COVID-19, while Australia have made plans to cover the likely absence of Taniela Tupou by bringing in fellow tighthead prop Ollie Hoskins.
The Perth product has played diet supplement for dog dry skin London Irish since 2016 and could earn a shock Test debut if Tupou is unable to pass his head injury assessment protocols, after suffering a concussion against Scotland.
White said the chance to knock off England for the first time since 2015 before a Twickenham full house had excited, not daunted, the side after the disappointing result against Scotland that included a raft of missed opportunities.
“Everyone’s playing a few moments over in their head and what they’d do differently,” he said.
“But for everything that went wrong, we were still two points away from a result.
“Now, playing at a sold-out Twickenham, winning away from home, that’s memories for life.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to do something that not many Australian teams have done.
“England are a side we’re desperate to beat and they’ll always be big brother.”