Robinson expects forwards challenge

England head coach Andy Robinson expects Australia's forwards to give his side a far tougher battle up front on the two-match tour Down Under than they did at Twickenham in the autumn. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

England head coach Andy Robinson expects Australia’s forwards to give his side a far tougher battle up front on the two-match tour Down Under than they did at Twickenham in the autumn.

The Wallabies pack, seriously depleted by injuries, were overpowered by both England and Wales as Australia slumped to defeat against both countries on the northern hemisphere tour.

Drastic action followed their return home, with wholesale changes to the coaching set-up and Robinson has no doubt former Aussie hooker Michael Foley, who was lured home from Guinness Premiership club Bath, will have instilled steel into their pack.

"We know how good Michael Foley is at bringing a pack together," said Robinson before the England squad flew out from Heathrow late on Monday night ahead of the Tests in Sydney on June 11 and in Melbourne six days later.

Robinson recalled: "I first came across it in 2001 when he coached and led the pack in the second Test against the Lions after we demolished them in the first Test, so I know just how good he is.

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"From seeing his work with Bath, we know the pack we will be thrown against will be well organised at the set-piece and very competitive at the lineout so, first and foremost, we know the challenges ahead of us there.

"That’s how they will play and if Al Baxter gets a run I think he will get the best out of him."

This time it will be the England pack lacking a number of their established players, with this year’s Six Nations Championship first-choice props Andrew Sheridan and Matt Stevens both recovering from injury.

The other absentee from the front row is World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson, one of a number of senior players given the summer off to rest in preparation for next year’s World Cup in France where England defend their title.

Robinson has also handed rests to the Bath second-row pair Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick and last winter’s skipper Martin Corry, but he is happy the forwards he has drafted in will provide competitive opposition to the Wallabies.

He said: "If we are picking players who are in form then we have the ability to do that. Lewis Moody has been playing very, very well and Pat Sanderson has done that at the end of the season and backed that up with a very good captain’s performance against the Barbarians.

"When you throw Magnus Lund, who has been scintillating for Sale, into the equation and Joe Worsley then the back row is going well.

"Look at the second-row options we have with the resurgence of Ben Kay. Chris Jones played well for Sale at the weekend and the players there are performing well so that is the key for us.

"We need to have a pack that is able to win the ball and then have the ability to use that. The number of options we’ll have in that lineout will match the Australians."

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