2017 Rugby League World Cup - Australia vs England Preview

The Lowdown

AUSTRALIA

  • Hosts Australia come into this tournament with plenty of expectation on them as overwhelming favourites but confident that they can live up to their billing in front of their home fans.
  • Coach Mal Meninga has comfortably the most talent at his disposal of any team at the tournament but star half-back Johnathan Thurston is unavailable due to injury for the duration of this edition.
  • They do however have plenty of cover and quality options in most positions so Thurston's absence will not hamper them too much as they will look to continue their dominance over England.

Head Coach: Mal Meninga

Team: Slater; Gagai, Chambers, Dugan, Holmes; Morgan, Cronk; Woods, Smith, Klemmer, Cordner, Gillett, Trbojevic

Bench: Graham, McLean, McGuire, Frizell

ENGLAND

  • England face the toughest possible test to kick off this World Cup and they will be desperate to set a marker down and show the Aussies that they can compete.
  • Seven of England's 24-man squad play in the NRL so there is plenty of familiarity between the two sets of players although Wayne Bennett left out the troubled Zak Hardaker and struggling Sam Tomkins.
  • Experience is key for England and they will look to the likes of skipper Sean O'Laughlin and Rhinos winger Ryan Hall for inspiration with the latter having an excellent try-scoring record against the Aussies.

Head Coach: Wayne Bennett

Team: Lomax; McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall; Widdop, Gale; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Whitehead, S. Burgess, O'Loughlin

Bench: Walmsley, Heighington, T. Burgess, Roby

Analysis - what to expect
Australia have well and truly dominated England in recent times and have won the last nine meetings. England will make a fast start and should be able to compete in terms of fitness at the beginning of this game, but the quality and physicality of the Aussies should shine through. The Aussies may not be in peak condition just yet, and that could work in England's favour to keep it tight for as long as possible, but the hosts should pull away late in the game and kick off the competition with a win.