Australia are overwhelming favourites to win this year’s Four Nations tournament, according to Apollo Bet.com.
Tim Sheens’ men are 1/3 favourites despite being the losing finalists in last year’s tournament. Australia have strong motivation to come away from the UK successful, as Darren Lockyer counts down the games until he retires from professional rugby league at the end of the tournament.
But the Australian coach expects the tournament to be competitive.
Sheens said: “We are always rated favourites. But that’s only with the media and the fans, because from our point of view we know it will be a hard game of footy.
“The conditions in England are different to Australia and we didn’t win it last year. With England having an influx of experienced talent from the NRL bringing in the ex-pat Australian guys, it’s going to be a tough contest.
World Cup and Four Nations champions New Zealand are 4/1 behind Australia to lift the trophy at Elland Road. New Zealand are twice Tri Nations and Four Nations champions, having first won the tournament in 2005, and then again in 2010.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney will be expecting his side to improve their performance against Australia, after losing to the Kangaroos prior to flying into the UK. Australia defeated New Zealand heavily at Ausgrid Stadium ten days ago, and Kearney has made changes by bumping Issac Luke from the bench to a starting hooker spot.
Kearney said: “I thought Issac Luke was one of the stronger performers last time and it was difficult not to give him a starting spot.
“I think over the last few years he has come off the bench for us so that was an easy decision.”
Jamie Peacock’s England side are 15/2 behind New Zealand to lift the Four Nations crown. England meet Wales on Saturday at the Leigh Sports Village, but despite the Welsh being 100/1 to also win the tournament, the England captain knows an upset could happen.
Peacock said: “They will present a different challenge to that of the Aussies and Kiwis, but a difficult one nevertheless. I’m sure they will want to raise their game.
“They’ve got some crafty players with the likes of Lee Briers and they will be pretty fired up.”
The Welsh captain Lee Briers knows how hard it is to beat the big three international sides.
Wales almost came close to causing the biggest upset in international rugby league history 11 years ago, when Wales unexpectedly led Australia 20-8 a quarter of the way through the 2000 World Cup semi final.
Briers said: “I don’t have any unfinished business – not at all. I have just got to keep plugging away and keep going at every challenge as if it is a new one”
“It is always nice to test yourself against the best. That’s the Aussies and Kiwis so I am looking forward to that.”