British Prime Minister David Cameron has taken a playful dig at his Australian counterpart over an obscure threat to assault the Russian president at a weekend summit here.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott raised eyebrows last month when he declared he would "shirtfront" President Vladimir Putin, using an Australian football term for a head-on shoulder charge to an opponent's chest.

Abbott was demanding more cooperation from Russia on the Dutch-led investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine in July by a missile suspected to have been fired by Russian-backed rebels.

Abbott later tempered his language, promising a "robust discussion."

Cameron drew laughs in a speech to the Australian Parliament on Friday when he described the Australian foreign minister approaching him at a recent Italian summit.