England Rugby Players on the pitch

Can England take Australia on their own patch?

They will certainly go in with full confidence, being Six Nations Grand Slam winners and unbeaten under Eddie Jones.

But England have only ever won three Tests Down Under against Australia and they face a formidable foe.

Astute, legendary, England great Martin Johnson, captain of the 2003 World Cup winning side probably called it about right this week.

He commented: “They will go into the series expecting to win at least one game. Ideally, the series would go down to a decider and they’ll be right in it. I do think they can win it, but that’s the best-case scenario.”

In other words, the Aussies will probably prove victorious 2-1.

England could yet sneak it but they will have to go further as a side than they have so far under Jones.

“The standard is going to be higher than in the Six Nations,” noted Johnson as the Wallabies await in Brisbane on Saturday, with Melbourne and Sydney to follow.

Already it has been dubbed the Bodyline series – a reminder of the hostile England bowling that so shocked Australia’s cricketers in 1932-33 – because so many players on both sides are so huge and the collisions are set to be so fierce.

The All Gold are without quality performers in the shape of Matt Giteau, Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell.

But they have two massive centres in Samu Karevi and Tevita Kuridrani, while the 6ft 10in tall Rory Arnold is a beast of a forward.

Exceptional backrowers David Pocock and Michael Hooper are still there, and could make all the difference.

Australian coach Michael Cheika will be clued up on England and with a game plan aimed at picking up perceived weaknesses.

For example, England have issues in the backs.

George Ford is going through a wobble, the subject of booing and derision at Twickenham for missing six goal-kicks out of seven in England’s victory over Wales.

Owen Farrell takes his place.

The outstanding Jack Nowell is “not quite 100 per cent” with an apparent thumb injury, and starts on the bench.

He is replaced by the dangerous Marlon Yarde – England have a vast depth of brilliant wingers.

But there is no Manu Tuilagi. He is injured again and not in the squad. His explosive breaking of tackles will be badly missed. Luther Burrell partners Jonathan Joseph at centre, preferred ahead of Ben Te’o, the Auckland-born former Australian rugby league player who qualifies for England via his mother and is signed to Worcester Warriors for next season.

There is no place for Alex Goode, despite being named Premiership player of year this season. Mike Brown retains the full-back position and will win his 50th cap.

The pack is unchanged – despite suggestions to the contrary, Jones has decided to retain Chris Robshaw at No 6. Maro Itoje stays at lock instead of making the switch to the back row.

There is a powerful bench including Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes.

Jones claims he has picked a side to play “physical and aggressive rugby”.

Yet even he appears to have reservations about how the series is likely to go for England.

He said: “We aim to win every Test match we play and I am pleased with our preparation since we landed in Australia. The group have acclimatised well, trained hard and there’s a buzz around the camp.

“If you look at England’s record in Australia it’s pretty ordinary. So it’s a great opportunity to put down a marker and create history.

“We’re excited to be playing against a strong Australian team in their backyard. The Wallabies are ranked second in the world and have the World Rugby coach of the year, so that’s why they start as favourites.

“We have a young squad with an average age of 24 so we are still developing and improving. It’ll be a great challenge for us and one we’re looking forward to meeting head on.”

Australia always has clever runners and smart ball-layers asking questions of the opposition.

This is going to be where we find out how far England have come and whether they are yet capable of competing with the Southern Hemisphere.