Courtney Lawes urged patience as England rebuild for next year’s World Cup, rolling the dice in the selection for Saturday’s second test against Australia.
Eddie Jones undertook a radical revamp of the backline in an attempt to keep the series alive at Suncorp Stadium, giving firsts to center Guy Porter and winger Tommy Freeman, as well as a first match for scrum Jack van Poortvliet.
The fourth and final move to the side dispatched 30-28 in Perth sees Sam Underhill replace Tom Curry, whose tour was ended by concussion.
Jones hopes Porter and Freeman, who were picked at the expense of Joe Marchant and Joe Cokanasiga, will provide the threat of carrying the ball in midfield and the finishing experience that was lacking in the first test.
The England manager has risked the ire of fans by continuing to identify France 2023 as the ultimate goal, even as his team tries to avoid a series defeat in a match he describes as “the perfect training for the World Cup”.
Lawes insists the red rose’s senior players fully support the direction of travel despite Jones’ scattered approach to the selection, while stressing that progress will take time.
“Just because we have a new team and a new strategy and we are trying to find our DNA as a team because we have so many new players doesn’t mean we don’t feel good enough to beat Australia. Certainly yes,” said the England captain.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we win the series. But at the same time, yeah, we’ve had the conversation that we’re making these changes for a reason.
“We think it will unlock our potential and we will be a better team for that. Maybe not now, it will take time to get there and let’s be patient.
“We will go through ups and downs, that’s for sure. But as long as we’re building a final product that’s at the forefront of our minds, that’s the main thing for us.
“Off the pitch, we are the most cohesive team I’ve ever made with the England shirt. This is 100% genuine. That’s why we’re all on the same page.
“We have full confidence that we are going to go out and win this weekend. But we also understand that we are going to make some mistakes, we are going to have to adjust some things, we are going to have to find out some things about ourselves and we are going to have to keep improving week by week.
“Performance is most important to us. Definitely. I’m not taking anything away from the win because we would love to win, but developing as a team and taking us in the right direction is definitely at the forefront of our minds.”
England want Porter to bring strength to midfield, thus reprising a role he successfully played for Leicester during their run to the Premiership title this season.
The 25-year-old spent his early years in London before moving to Australia, where he passed through the Wallabies’ academy system and won a contract with the Brumbies, remaining with the Super Rugby squad until agreeing to join Leicester in 2020. .
Freeman has been an explosive force for Northampton, using his 6 foot 2 inches and 16th frame for electric effect on all three backs. Jones’ hope is that both players will chase the ball.
“The guy had to fight his way to the top. His consistent form for Leicester was top class,” Jones said.
“He plays a good physical game and against Australia – who have a great defense – we need to be physical.
“Tommy is a good rugby player. He has a good feeling for the game. We missed some opportunities on Saturday and he’s the kind of guy who could take that kind of opportunity.”