Australia scrum-half Nic White braced for England niggle tactics in decider

England captain Courtney Lawes denies any provocation is part of a pre-meditated plan ahead of Saturday’s third Test in Sydney.

By Press Association Published: 12 July 2022 - 7.01am

Australia are braced for England to persevere with their tactics of trying to bait the Wallabies off the ball when the rivals clash in Saturday’s series decider at Sydney Cricket Ground.

Former Exeter scrum-half Nic White is taken aback by the level of niggle directed at Australia in the first two Tests, although Courtney Lawes denies any provocation is part of a pre-meditated plan.

White was roughed up on the floor by Ellis Genge in the second Test and the England prop also goaded Michael Hooper by triumphantly shoving him in the chest after a try had been scored.

Ellis Genge was involved in two controversial incidents in the second Test
Ellis Genge was involved in two controversial incidents in the second Test (Mike Egerton/PA)

It continued what Australia claim is a deliberate policy that surfaced for the first time in the series opener when Jonny Hill repeatedly targeted opposite number Darcy Swain off the ball.

After being pushed hard in the chest and having his hair pulled, Swain eventually reacted with a headbutt on Hill and was duly sent off, resulting in a two-week ban.

When asked if he was surprised by the niggle coming from England, White said: “Yeah probably a little bit. Little bit surprised but it is two teams going at it.

“We will expect the same this weekend, them coming after us. It is just part of the game.

“We will look to start this game more physically up front, but we won’t be baited into that off-the-ball stuff. We will leave that to those boys.

“You have to be careful around those areas in how you retaliate. With the Genge one, I was being asked to calm down when I thought I was being pretty measured – you saw what happened – the penalty went the other way.

“You have to be careful. Certainly you don’t want anyone running in, but there’s a fair bit of niggle.

“As I said, we won’t be buying into that. At the end of the day, it is a game of rugby and the only thing that matters is who wins.

“We know there will be a fair bit of niggle. There has been in the first two games and there will be again in this game, but we will be doing our best to concentrate on the rugby side of things.”

Genge tackled White in the 16th minute at Suncorp Stadium but instead of rising to his feet he used his elbow, forearm and palm to keep the half-back pinned to the floor.

Courtney Lawes denies that England have deliberately set out to unsettle Australia
Courtney Lawes denies that England have deliberately set out to unsettle Australia (John Walton/PA)

Referee Andrew Brace examined the incident and issued a penalty only against Genge.

“Leaning on me with an elbow is a nice way to put it. Ellis has that in his game,” said White, who spent three seasons at Exeter until 2020 and now plays for the Brumbies.

“We are two guys who know each other from playing in the Premiership. Certainly we are just two competitors going at it.

“He’s a good man, a great player and a real talisman for England. I knew if he got a chance to get his hands on me he would have a crack at me.

“There was nothing malicious in terms of words, he just got a chance to get his hands on me and he thought he would make it known. That’s just rugby. I would expect nothing less this weekend.”

England captain Lawes laughed when it was put to him that Australia have been targeted off the ball.

“No, we actually don’t. We just wind them up in general because they don’t like us! I’m skipper, fortunately, and I haven’t heard anything about trying to wind them up,” Lawes said.

“We actually just want to concentrate on ourselves and play our game and we actually talk about not letting them wind us up, so that’s quite funny he (White) said that! It’s pretty ironic!

“The boys can get pretty revved up for the games. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and tell you we’re not doing something when we are, but we haven’t spoken about trying to wind them up.”

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