World Cup Preview: England v Australia

England will be looking to record their first victory over Australia since the Great Britain team was scrapped as they kick-off the World Cup on Saturday.

The 2006 Four Nations was the last time a British team defeated the Kangaroos, when Great Britain won 23-12 in Sydney.

England have scored just 14 points in their last three meetings with Australia at World Cups – losing 52-4 in 2008, 22-2 in 2000 and 16-8 in the 1995 final.

They did however open up the 1995 World Cup with a 20-16 win over Australia at the old Wembley, thanks to tries from Andy Farrell, Chris Joynt, Paul Newlove and Jason Robinson.

The build-up has been marred by departure of Gareth Hock, booted out of the squad for missing a training session earlier in the week.

Hock himself confirmed that the previous night he had been out drinking with several other players from the squad, and that speculation may implicate some of the players who are missing from Steve McNamara’s 19-man squad.

Canterbury Bulldogs prop James Graham, a sure-fire starter pre-World Cup and arguably England‘s best player in the abberation against Italy last weekend, is missing, while the starting hooker from that game, Michael McIlorum also sits out.

Zak Hardaker, who many thought had done enough in his man of the match performance for England Knights against Samoa on the same day, is also excluded.

It would appear that Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin has lost his race to be fit for the first match, but it opens the door for Brett Ferres to go straight in to the squad, just days after his call-up.

Australia, who unlike England didn’t play a warm-up match, are ominous in their strength.

Their 19-man squad oozes quality and experience. It includes just five players – Slater, Inglis, Thurston, Smith and Gallen – from the team that lost the 2008 World Cup final to New Zealand, which ended a run of six consecutive tournament titles.

The Australian team doesn’t include any players that played in the NRL Grand Final between Manly and Sydney Roosters, while England have six players who turned out for Wigan or Warrington at Old Trafford in the Super League equivalent earlier this month.

England will be anxious to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Italy, although Sam Tomkins‘ post-match comments about the Australians thinking they’ll have it easy probably won’t have washed with Tim Sheens’ squad.

England: Carl Ablett (Leeds), George Burgess (Souths), Sam Burgess (Souths), Tom Burgess (Souths), Rob Burrow (Leeds), Josh Charnley (Wigan), Rangi Chase (Castleford), Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield), Liam Farrell (Wigan), Brett Ferres (Huddersfield), Ryan Hall (Leeds), Chris Hill (Warrington), Lee Mossop (Wigan), James Roby (St Helens), Kevin Sinfield (Leeds), Sam Tomkins (Wigan), Kallum Watkins (Leeds), Ben Westwood (Warrington), Gareth Widdop (Melbourne).

Australia: Billy Slater (Melbourne), Brett Morris (St George), Brent Tate (North Queensland), Greg Inglis (South Sydney), Darius Boyd (Newcastle), Johnathan Thurston (North Queensland), Cooper Cronk (Melbourne), Matthew Scott (North Queensland), Cameron Smith (Melbourne), James Tamou (North Queensland), Greg Bird (Gold Coast), Sam Thaiday (Brisbane), Paul Gallen (Cronulla). Interchanges (from): Robbie Farah (Wests), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla), Luke Lewis (Cronulla), Corey Parker (Brisbane), Jarryd Hayne (Parramatta).

World Cup games: EnglandIreland (Huddersfield, Nov 2), Fiji (Hull, Nov 9); AustraliaFiji (St Helens, Nov 2), Ireland (Limerick, Nov 9)

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