Mike Catt warns England of being overconfident against Australia

Some games of international rugby are won before a ball is kicked and England are hoping the mere sight of Twickenham will send a shiver down Australian spines before Saturday's encounter.

The Wallabies scrum has not always enjoyed life in London in November and Saturday's 33-6 drubbing by France in Paris has scarcely bolstered confidence. The English pack, in stark contrast, can hardly wait.

Scrummaging superiority is not a guaranteed passport to success, as England found in Perth in 2010 when they contrived to lose a game they should have won comfortably, but the memory of Australia's heavy 35-18 defeat later that year remains clearly etched in both sides' memories. If Robbie Deans's team cannot get a grip at the set-pieces, they will find themselves heading down a familiar highway to hell.

The big danger from England's perspective, consequently, is getting carried away prematurely. Test history is littered with favourites who ultimately fell short, not least New Zealand who could only draw 18-18 with the Wallabies in Brisbane recently. Hence the repeated message from Mike Catt, England's skills coach, that England need to keep calm and make the correct decisions at the right times rather than lapse into overconfidence. "There won't be any complacency in the scrum," he stressed.

"We'll make sure of that."

As Catt's role covers both the backs and the forwards, there is little risk his warning will go unheeded. Apart from anything else the World Cup-winning centre is desperate to build on the promising attacking signs the team displayed against Fiji and does not want England to fall back into old, blinkered habits. He is also adamant England need to start well to re-sow the seeds of past nightmares in Australian minds. "We need to be a lot more clinical. We can't give Australia a start in the first 20 minutes or they'll punish us."

"They're a formidable side, you can never underestimate them. I've played in and watched some fantastic games against them. It's always a humdinger and their tour will get back on track if they beat England. They're no mugs. It's very hard to beat up another international side these days."

In a perfect world Catt would also like his entire side to be as comfortable on the ball as New Zealand were against Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday.

"How simple was it? It was executed to perfection. Three line-breaks from Dan Carter, three tries. Boom." He is already working particularly hard on the passing skills of his forwards. "We are taking some guys out of their comfort zones. You're always coming up against big physical guys. Trying to run through them is very hard. We've got to add something different to the way we want to attack."

Central to that objective is the presence of Alex Goode at full-back. The Saracen offers a second ball-playing option to take pressure off the fly-half Toby Flood, who noticed the difference during Saturday's 54-12 victory over Fiji. "He brings something completely different to a normal full-back. You've almost got a second pair of eyes. He has the ability to see and communicate space and it's nice to have that extra person on the pitch."

Catt was similarly impressed. "I don't think we'll get as much ball against the next three opponents but a lot of the time Alex does something it's the right decision." He remains wary of the Wallabies, nevertheless. "They've still got some world-class game-breakers… they're a side you cannot underestimate. Everyone thought the All Blacks were going to put 30-40 points on them in Brisbane and they drew. It's another Saturday, it's a different game completely. It's about making sure we don't get above ourselves.

"In the 2007 World Cup quarter-final we were underdogs, Australia should have bumped us but we ended up winning. That's why that first 20-30 minutes are crucial. We've got to make sure we take the game to Australia and make sure they know they're in another Test match. They've had enough of them in the last four months. We may have only one or two opportunities and we need to make sure we make the most of them. We want parity up front. If we get a good platform we can release what we've got outside."

Flood, meanwhile, was quick to query Digby Ioane's intriguing observation that Australia were looking to get stuck into England's "pretty wingers" this weekend. "Is he talking about Charlie Sharples with his bean head?" asked Flood rhetorically. "Chris Ashton with his see-through skin? Ugo Monye's quite an attractive man but apart from that I've no idea."Goodness knows what Ioane will make of Flood's current 'Movember' moustache, which bears a slight resemblance to Lemmy's from Motorhead, when he sees it.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Robert Kitson, for The Guardian on Tuesday 13th November 2012 22.00 Europe/London

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