WORLD CUP FINAL PREVIEW: Australia v England

Image credit: Englandrl.co.uk

England have the nation behind them as they will be looking to cause an upset and beat Australia in the Rugby League World Cup final on Saturday.

The Lions take on the Kangaroos in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final on Saturday in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 9am kick-off.

Australia have won every game in the tournament so far and beat England 18-4 in the opening game. They beat France and Lebanon in Group A while they defeated Samoa in the quarter-finals and demolished Fiji 54-6 in the semi-finals last weekend.

England have lost just one game and that was to Australia. Since the defeat in the opening weekend of the tournament, the Lions have performed impressively, easing past Lebanon and France in the group stage. They beat the highly-regarded Papua New Guinea in the quarter-finals and defeated Tonga last week to reach their first World Cup final in 22 years.

Mal Meninga has named an unchanged Australia team to the one that thrashed Fiji last weekend.

Meanwhile, Wayne Bennett and England have been dealt a hammer blow. Captain Sean O’Loughlin has been ruled out of the final with a calf strain while starting hooker Josh Hodgson suffered an ACL injury against Tonga last time out. Chris Heighington and Jonny Lomax have come into the side to replace the duo.

The Kangaroos are undefeated against any England of Great Britain side since 2006 so it is going to be tough for England but they have got their strongest team in years and passion just might pull them through.

KEY BATTLE

There will be a number of key battles all over the park in the final but the one between Australia’s Aaron Woods and England’s James Graham stands out. Woods is one of the best props in the NRL and according to Australian press, there is a bit of bad blood between Woods and Graham so it will be interesting to see how the pair approach the final.

Graham has been remarkable for the Lions in the World Cup. The 32-year-old is one of the most highly-respected props in the world for a number of years now and always plays with his heart on his sleeve. He makes a lot of metres going forward and gets through a hell of a lot of work. This clash is going to be very, very tasty.

ONES TO WATCH

It’s a World Cup final, obviously, so both teams have a lot of ones to watch but it has got to be Billy Slater for Australia. You wouldn’t believe he is getting towards the back end of his career because he still has pace to burn and ridiculous footwork. England will have to try and pin the 34-year-old down early doors.

The one to watch for England is Kallum Watkins. The 26-year-old has scored 123 tries in 224 games for Leeds Rhinos since making his debut in 2007 and has been one of the best centres in Super League ever since. Jermaine McGillvary has received a lot of credit in the tournament and rightly so, but he wouldn’t be gaining the credit if it wasn’t for his centre. If he makes a break, it will take someone special to catch him.

THE TEAMS

AUSTRALIA: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Will Chambers, 4. Josh Dugan, 5. Valentine Holmes, 6. Michael Morgan, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Cameron Smith, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Boyd Cordner, 12. Matt Gillett, 13. Josh McGuire.

Interchange: 14. Wade Graham, 15. Jordan McLean, 16. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 17. Tyson Frizell.

ENGLAND: 1. Gareth Widdop, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. John Bateman, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Kevin Brown, 7. Luke Gale, 8. Chris Hill, 9. James Roby, 10. James Graham, 16. Ben Currie, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 11. Sam Burgess (C).

Interchange: 14. Alex Walmsley, 15. Tom Burgess, 17. Chris Heighington, 18. Jonny Lomax.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee – Gerard Sutton, Touch Judges – Chris Kendall & Chris Butler, Video Referee – Ben Thaler.

THE FAVOURITE

Australia were the tournament favourites from the start and they are still favourites to lift the World Cup trophy come 11:30am on Saturday. However, it will not be easy and England will up for their game and we can sense an upset. Loverugbyleague.com predicts England by four points.

You can watch the game LIVE on BBC One or Premier Sports at 9am on Saturday 2 December.

Who do you think will lift the trophy? Let us know in the comments below.

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