Euan Aitken is urging his Scotland team-mates to “show a bit of fight” when they take on World Cup favourites Australia in Coventry on Friday night.
The Bravehearts are reeling from an opening 28-4 defeat by rank outsiders Italy in Newcastle on Sunday but have little time to lick their wounds before getting the second round of group matches under way at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
“It was definitely not the result we planned and hoped for,” said Aitken.
“Italy surprised us to be honest. They were a lot better side than we thought they were going to be.
“Not that we took them for granted, but the way they held onto the ball and made the ruck very quick put us under pressure.
“It’s a very short turnaround against the best in the world so we’re up against it.”
The 27-year-old Aitken was born in Pambula, New South Wales, but qualifies for Scotland through his paternal grandfather Andrew.
He missed the 2017 World Cup through injury and is the Bravehearts’ solitary established NRL player following the call-up by Australia of Campbell Graham, who is set to make his Test debut against Scotland on Friday night.
“We’ve got to show a bit of fight against Australia”
“We were probably unlucky to lose five or six quality players before the tournament. But you’ve got to do the best with what you’ve got,” Aitken said.
“I thought we had the team to beat Italy. Unfortunately we were quite poor and it’s going to take a big improvement.
“We’ve got to show a bit of fight against Australia, that’s all we can do. And hopefully by the time we come around to playing Fiji we’re a lot better side.”
Euan Aitken: Nathan Cleary is probably the best half-back in the game
Scotland will be without Salford full-back Ryan Brierley due to injury. London Broncos’ Alex Walker looks set to take his place.
Campbell will be one of six debutants for the reigning champions as coach Mal Meninga rotates his squad following their opening 42-8 win over Fiji.
Penrith’s Grand-Final winning captain Nathan Cleary will claim his maiden cap alongside Panthers team-mates Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin. Matt Burton and Lindsay Collins will also pull on a Kangaroos jersey for the first time.
“Nathan Cleary is probably the best half-back in the game,” said Aitken. “It’s going to be a tough one.
“We’ll sit down as a team and try to dissect a bit of their team, what their structure is and how we can defend it.
“But they’ve got world-class players in every single position, so it’s going to be a massive challenge for us.
“They were a little bit rusty against Fiji but it was one game in and they’re going to get better and better.”