Smith & Jones threaten the Wallabies

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Eddie Jones has been lavishing Australian rugby with praise in the build-up to the welcome return of Chariots-Wallaby combat - but the old flatterer can't disguise the fact his compatriots will start distant second favourites against his England juggernauts.

Yet even with English bookies rating the home team big odds-on favourites, Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has quickly put the kibosh on Jones' suggestion that Australia harbour an "inferiority complex" against the "mother country".

Jones' plans were disrupted on the eve of Saturday's Test (Sunday morning AEDT) when his starting prop Ellis Genge was ruled out after a positive COVID-19 test, following on from Australia's own propping injury chaos.

But while both sides are trusting new-look front rows, it's the unleashing of the brilliant fly-half Marcus Smith, the new darling of English rugby, that Jones hopes will do most to inspire his eighth straight win over his compatriots at Twickenham.

On Friday, Owen Farrell, who'll celebrate his 100th international playing outside Smith, admitted the keys to England's oft-criticised cumbersome attack have now been handed to the Harlequins comet.

"Marcus runs the attack, he's been brilliant so far," declared Farrell.

"He's playing unbelievably well and he's come in and put his stamp on it, running the show."

Jones himself asserts Smith can handle the "huge step up" but has been doing his best to mute the hype surrounding him by instead talking up the resurgence of the sport back in his home country.

"They're in a good spot, aren't they, Australian rugby," he said.

"A young side going into the 2023 World Cup, the Lions are coming in 2025 and if you listen to the beat of the drums, they've got the World Cup coming in 2027. So they've got a lot to look forward to.

"Global rugby needs a strong Australia. It's an important time for them to keep growing, and we look forward to the challenge of playing them."

Not to mention beating 'them', as has become his trademark.

But Hooper wonders why the Wallabies should fear anyone after beating world champions South Africa twice this year. Of Jones' suggestions about a traditional Aussie 'inferiority complex', he said stony-faced: "I don't feel that way."

"In lots of areas, we're improving. Our skill set and game awareness is a lot better," said Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

"Maybe we didn't see enough of that against Scotland but we're certainly better conditioned too.

"We've got a long way to go but we've a group of good men who work hard and a fantastic staff who are making the difference."

And there will be plenty of unknowns.

Who, for instance, can with any confidence now call the front row battle?

The Wallabies have a loosehead 'finisher' Gus Bell, who's making only his 2nd start in 15 Tests, and a veteran James Slipper, who's had to switch and will make his first Test start as tighthead for nine years.

He's backed up on the bench by Ollie Hoskins, plucked from English club rugby to make an emotional debut from the bench, while Genge's absence means England throw in a 21-year-old starting loosehead Bevan Rodd for his own fiery baptism.

Yet Australia can perhaps take encouragement from England's COVID-19 distractions, with Jones admitting players had felt a mixture of anger, disappointment and resignation about Genge's forced withdrawal.

"Every day is an adventure," shrugged Jones. "We're on a bit of a roller-coaster at the moment."

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