England coach Stuart Lancaster warned his side they should be wary of a “hurting” Australia in next weekend’s November finale at Twickenham.
Lancaster’s men ended a run of five straight defeats with a 28-9 victory over Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday.
That win for 2015 World Cup hosts England came just hours after Australia, pool rivals at next year’s global showpiece tournament, went down 26-23 to Ireland in a thrilling clash in Dublin.
It was Australia’s second consecutive loss under new coach Michael Cheika following last week’s 29-26 defeat by France.
England too have had a similar experience against top-class opposition this month, suffering three-point defeats by New Zealand (24-21) and South Africa (31-28) at Twickenham before overcoming the tier-two nation Samoa.
With less than a year to go until the start of the World Cup, Lancaster knows that the latest Anglo-Australian clash next Saturday will have even more riding on it than usual.
“I’ve seen Australia lost to Ireland so they’ll come here hurting,” he said.
“We won’t forget the South Africa and New Zealand games but that Australia game is a big game for us next week, without a doubt.”
England took their time to subdue Samoa, not pulling away until the second half.
The most heartening aspect of England’s display was the form of five-eighth George Ford, who made his first Test start after four appearances off the bench.
With Ford at No.10, regular five-eighth Owen Farrell was shifted to inside centre.
Ford kicked 13 points but, more importantly, played a key role in two of England’s three tries.
His loop move provided the spark for the first of wing Jonny May’s two touchdowns before a well-weighted cross-kick led to a try for fullback Mike Brown.
Lancaster, who saw lock Courtney Lawes suffer a knee injury, is well aware the Wallabies will provide a stiffer test than a Samoa team that played 10 minutes of the second half a man down after Johnny Leota was sin-binned for a high tackle on Ford.
And he accepted he now had a decision to make over his starting fly-half.
“He’s put a real marker down for next week without a doubt,” Lancaster said of Ford.
“He’s got a great eye for a gap. His kicking game was good too. He showed a great deal of bravery and I thought it was a really positive first game for him.”
Samoa coach Stephen Betham lamented the fact his side couldn’t last the distance: “We came with a plan to upset England at the start and we did, but we faded at the end.”
The Pacific Islanders came into this match having threatened a boycott in protest at the administration of the Samoa Rugby Union.