RLWC Match Preview: Australia v England
The Kangaroos are hoping to become the first Australian side in 40 years to lift the Paul Barrière Trophy on home soil, but first must overcome an English outfit learning from the man who helped take down Australia in 2008.
England head coach, Wayne Bennett, was assistant coach of the 2008 New Zealand side which beat Australia in dramatic fashion to deny the home side, despite being ranked outsiders.
Now nine years later, Queensland born Bennett is at the helm of an English team stacked with world-class talent and looking to emulate the heroics of 2008.
Australia has advanced to the final without losing a game and having conceded just 16 points, which has them set as firm favourites coming into the final.
But despite the lure of edging their names into Rugby League history books, Kangaroos fullback Billy Slater, says there is only one reason why he will take the field on Saturday.
"I WANT TO WIN THE WORLD CUP BECAUSE IT'S THE WORLD CUP,” SLATER SAID.
"Winning in 2013 was one of the most memorable moments of my playing career and we've got another opportunity to do that here in Australia,”
Australia will gain confidence from the fact they haven’t lost to England in 12 straight matches but will come up against one of the best forward packs in international Rugby League.
Inspired by NRL stars James Graham and Sam Burgess, the English forward pack has had little problems moving the ball up the field and building a platform for likes of Jermaine McGillvary and Gareth Widdop to take advantage of.
Australia boasts one of the most experienced and skilful teams ever assembled on a Rugby League pitch, headlined by 2017 Golden Boot winner Cameron Smith.
Smith’s presence on the field will be enough to put doubt in the minds of the English defenders and it will be a high priority of Wayne Bennett’s side to limit the impact of the 34-year-old veteran on the game.
Australia has seemingly improved from every game and despite some worrying knocks, they will field an unchanged side from the one that beat Fiji last week.
During their dramatic win against Tonga last week, England hooker Josh Hodgson suffered a serious leg injury putting him out of contention for the match.
The injury brings experienced hooker, James Roby, into the side for the final while Chris Heighington makes his way onto the bench.
Despite the late reshuffle of his squad, Bennett is confident that the bond his team has developed over the tournament will be enough to drive them to a massive upset over Australia.
"They're all very close, very compatible with each other,” Bennett said.
“They look after each other and pull each other into line, which is the way it should be. No one gets out of line because of the respect they have for each other."
Australia vs England
Brisbane Stadium, Brisbane Saturday December 2, 7:00PM (AEST)
James Coman | @JamesComan1
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Reporter