League Freaks Four Nations Final Preview – Australia Vs England

You probably already knew it was time for a big final between Australia and England. You would have received the e-mail from the RFL asking if it was ok for them to put your name up as a possible referee for this game!

In what is shaping to be a very big end to the Rugby League season we once again see England on a high, going into a final against Australia full of confidence and claiming they no longer fear Australia.

When this has happened in the past, its all got a little bit messy, but still, English fans are confident and I personally think England have named their best line for many, many years.

So lets look at the teams shall we?

England went into the Four Nations simply hoping they didn’t get slaughtered by Australia and New Zealand. In that sense its already a case of mission accomplished.

England finally got rid of a number of players who made previous teams based on reputation alone. They got rid of players who had played in dozens of test matches and failed in every single one of them.

Players within this current England squad became accountable for their own performances. Even Danny McGuire found himself dropped, never to be seen again, and replaced by a teenager who is playing in his first International series!

This is the side that has resulted:

Official English Team For The Nations Final
1.Shaun Briscoe
2. Peter Fox
3. Chris Bridge
4. Michael Shenton
5. Ryan Hall
6. Sam Tomkins
7. Kyle Eastmond
8. Adrian Morley
9. Kevin Sinfield
10. James Graham
11. Jamie Peacock (Captain)
12. Gareth Ellis
13. Sam Burgess

14. Eorl Crabtree
15. Jon Wilkin
16. Ben Westwood
17. James Roby

Very much the look of a side that has been formed over the course of a competition. If you said a month ago this team would take part in the Four Nations Final you would have got a lot of strange looks!

Against Australia two weeks ago England was blown off the park early but fought its way back in the second half. While I wasn’t impressed at all with Australia that night, the alarm bells must still be ringing loud and clear.

This English back line was caught out badly when Australia played some very basic football. Heading up the middle of the field, compressing the English defense, then spinning it wide with good back line play, Australia found gaps you would drive a semi trailer through (That would be a Lorry for all you Poms!).

England will be relying on their forwards to chew up meters in this game, they managed it against Australia in their last clash, but this is a Final and Australia always lift a gear when it matters.

I don’t like the idea of playing Sinfield at hooker against Australia. His running game is non existent. and is one less thing for Australia to worry about. I also wouldn’t have had Wilkin in the side at all, he is just rubbish.

If England is to win, they need their forwards playing smart and not running themselves out in the first 20 minutes. They need their halves to fire and ask questions of Australia, Eastmond has the type of pace that can trouble Australia while Tomkins comes up with players that you wouldn’t expect, this is a bloody good combination to have against Australia who easily fall into the trap of expecting the same old stuff from their opposition.

Australia went into the Four Nations as overwhelming favorites, but at no time have they really put together a good 80 minute performance.

It had only been their 26 point performance in the first half of their game against England that would really put the Fear of God into anyone, and even then, they went scoreless in the second half and looked very ordinary overall.

Australia has played around with their lineup in this tournament, mostly in the forwards. I think they have fallen into a trap that New South Wales have fallen into of recent years. There has been so much emphasis on forwards having to be fast, mobile and able to get through a lot of work.

Thats fine at NRL level, but at representative level the bigger forwards can do all of that anyway. I said going into the Four Nations Australia needed to pick a pack that was as big as it possibly could, and looking even at this extended squad, I’m not seeing that attitude at all.

This is the extended squad with two to be omitted:

Official Australian Team For The Four Nations Final
1. Billy Slater
2. Brett Morris
3. Greg Inglis
4. Justin Hodges
5. Jarryd Hayne
6. Darren Lockyer (Captain)
7. Johnathan Thurston
8. Ben Hannant
9. Cameron Smith
10. Petero Civoniceva
11. Luke Lewis
12. Paul Gallen
13. Nathan Hindmarsh

14. Kurt Gidley
15. Brett White
16. Anthony Watmough
17. Sam Thaiday

18. David Shillington
19. Michael Jennings

The word is that Jarryd Hayne will switch over to the wing outside Greg Inglis, which I think is a good move. Hodges isn’t known for passing the ball to his winger and Ingis would create a lot of space for Hayne to finally shine.

I’d be surprised if Hodges was dropped all together for Michael Jennings. I think Jennings would cause massive problems would England in attack, his defense isn’t yet up to scratch however. I like taking a big back line in against this English team too, so that will weigh in Hodges favor.

Australia’s forward pack needs to step up in this game. Their defense has been pretty good in this tournament, but they have been losing the contest of the collision in ever game they have played and they can’t afford to do that against this big English pack.

At the end of the day if the Australia forwards stand up, Australia wins comfortably. Thats what this contest comes down too.

The Game
England is going to come out early trying to rattle the Australian forwards, they need to be prepared for this. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they sent Morley out in a seek and destroy mission early on.

Look for both teams to test the referee early, he is inexperienced and is used to controlling park football in Auckland, at this level he will have a lot to take in so both sides will push the boundaries.

If he gives a good ten meters, doesn’t allow too much laying on in the play the ball, and watches those English chasers being offside from bombs, then Australia will win this game. In the last match between the two sides, Steve Ganson was terrible in most regards, but in these areas he was beyond terrible. I dare say Australia is quietly happy this bloke got the refereeing gig just so they didn’t have to put up with Ganson.

If Australia get off to a good star Englands only hope is that the Kangaroo’s will be happy with the damage they have caused and will go into cruise control, as they have done in a number of Test matches in recent years.

Australia have the ability to slaughter England, but England have not got the ability to do the same to Australia. If England gets off to a good start, look for Australia to hit back in a big way. In some ways I think that a couple of early English tries could see the scoreline ending up being very one sided to Australia, if the Kangaroo’s put the pedal down and keep it down, this could get messy.

I can’t see Australia losing this game, having said that, this is one of the few times I’m prepared for anything to happen.

England have stood up at home and played well while Australia have been disappointing. It will, be a big biased English crowd, two pumped up sides and an inexperienced referee.

I think we’ll see England going out all guns blazing, they’ll conceed a few early tries, put a small come back on but then Australia will stretch its legs and Gregt Inglis will end up man of the match.

Also, watch for Billy Slater, he’s been a bit quiet in some of these games but I think he is due for a huge performance.

The Australian back line has just got too much talent and their forwards have good enough defense to handle the English fire power up front. My Tip: Australia by 24.

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