The Wallabies’ plan should be simple this weekend: get George Ford

If the Wallabies don’t tell Lopeti Timani his one job is to run over England No.10 George Ford they have lost sight of what works against England, particularly at Twickenham.
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Forget Eddie Jones’ comments about the Wallabies’ scrum, it’s a sideshow: his own pack spent a good five minutes at the end the first half against Argentina last weekend having their spines rearranged by the Pumas – the same Argentine scrum that failed to make much of an impression in the Rugby Championship.

How Mario Ledesma’s countrymen were not awarded a penalty try is beyond comprehension – particularly after England prop Dan Cole was sinbinned for collapsing under pressure under his own sticks. This should not be a set piece that dominates the Wallabies, even though I think the Wallabies themselves have not kicked on since the World Cup – which in itself is a little surprising.

In Ford’s case, he is a nice little player but defensively the weakest starting No.10 in any side of the world’s top nations.

Size-wise he is similar to Aaron Cruden, but nowhere near as robust or technically proficient and tends to get caught upright. Bernard Foley is stockier, stronger, and more capable.

Hitting Ford early, hard, and then often is the way to get at England. This is the language England understands, and you’ve got to give it to them in their own backyard.

What would Eddie Jones do if he were coaching against England? He’d target Ford, big time.

South Africa have done very little right this year but they did something quite clever against England at the start of last month.

From attacking lineout ball hooker Adrian Strauss went long, very long, to hard-charging No.12 Damian de Allende who just ploughed straight over the top of Ford, getting the Springboks well behind the England defensive line.

That play comes with some risk – it depends on a high skill level from the hooker – but there are of course many variations the Wallabies can use.

In fact, they love using a play that Stephen Larkham brought from the Brumbies, where David Pocock peels off early from the back of a false lineout drive and feeds Tevita Kuridrani running the de Allende line.

But what I’d like to see is the Wallabies shorten up the lineout and have Timani as a midfield carrier to really rattle Ford’s cage. Alternatively, there is an opportunity to target him with a straightforward carry off the back of the scrum.

Let’s not be PC in this of all weeks – physical intimidation is still a factor in the game, and if it can be used to not only bend the England line but put Ford off his attacking play, then all the better.

I will say this about Ford though: it is to England’s eternal credit – and speaks to the player’s character – that they are not hiding him out of the line.

Jones asks Ford to front defensively, despite his vulnerability, and it’s one of the reasons Ford is easily his most fascinating selection.

In one sense Jones has been spared from making a really tough call between Owen Farrell and Ford at No.10 by Manu Tuilagi’s continued unavailability, but even so he does have other options at No.12 that would allow Farrell to move in one.

That Jones keeps Ford at No.10 is a significant show of faith, although when I see England play, they look more like Farrell’s team or even Ben Youngs’ side, because the Leicester halfback has become very influential.

However, Jones is clearly no mug and has identified Ford as a key cog in how he wants his side to play the game. And that’s why the Wallabies must go after him.

I actually like this England team. They are fit, they work hard to get good shape in attack and defence, and fullback Mike Brown plays with pure passion. But opponents, Ireland and Jonathan Sexton aside, have largely been poor at making sure Ford has a physically difficult afternoon.

Over to you, Mr Timani.

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