Australia vs England Preview

Coming into this game Australia are favourites, but as everyone is aware the first game of any teams campaign sets the standard for how the competition will go. Australia took the bragging rights once more in the 2016 four nations series, beating England 36-18 on their home turf in comfortable fashion.

Australia: Old favourites return for the competition favourites with a squad featuring the likes of; Cooper Cronk, Will Chambers, Cameron Smith and of course Billy Slater. This wealth of experience will help to move power house forwards like,  Frizell, Cordner and Klemmer, around the field to create plenty of line breaks through hit ups and players in support for offloads to ensure big yards are made. 

Of course the big question is how do they adapt without missing talents like Inglis and Thurston? Michael Morgan has proved himself a more than competent replacement for JT for large parts of this season for the Cowboys,  but one thing i couldn't help but notice was his lack of presence in the series compared to Thurston, but this is chance to take ownership of the 6 Jersey for the green and gold. Losing a player like GI is a huge blow, his mixture of raw talent and power with his trademark unpredictability makes it any defensive line's worst nightmare. The job of catching the England left edge on it's heels now falls to Josh Dugan,  who has shown his ability to perform on the big stage but prone to injury and ill discipline he could be his own downfall. 

England: The white wall have chosen to go with in form half pairing Gareth Widdop and Luke Gale who have both enjoyed strong seasons with their respective teams. The squad is littered with experience mostly in the forwards most of which will have featured in the 2016 defeat and will have hopefully learned from it. 

England's strength is going to be down the middle with the powerful forwards drafted in, most of who play in the NRL, but don't let that take away from the prolific left side with all too familiar threat Ryan Hall,  who is still averaging out at a try per game for England. Supported defensively by John Bateman a powerful young second rower who brings a whole new threat playing in the centres. 

Conclusion: I feel we are in for a high intensity opener to the competition with both teams feeling a loss would be a real dent to their chances at world cup glory. England will look to get away from the arm wrestle up the middle finding talented centres Watkins and Bateman who will look for gaps close to the line and look to get outside their men to set away their wingers. If England stick to this game plan I feel they could scrape a win. Australia are going to the middle with fast play the balls looking to trap men in the ruck area and exploit holes left by lazy marker play. Slater and co will have no doubt been practising the quick ruck plays and kicks that are as good as passes that England have been forced to endure for years. Only time will tell and I'm excited to see what this fixture offers. 



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