With their spot in the final secured Australia will look to keep the momentum going as they field their full strength side against an England team that has a spot in the final on the line.

Last Time Out

Australia took advantage of a strong opening 15 minutes to grind out a 14-8 victory over New Zealand. Man of the Match Blake Ferguson made his mark on the game early breaking through the line, scoring the opening try and laying on an assist for Johnathan Thurston in what were the only occasions Australia crossed the line. Australia absorbed all the pressure applied by the Kiwis in the second half only having their line breached from a strong solo effort from Solomone Kata and some magic from Shaun Johnson. Superior goal-kicking ensured they kept a six point buffer in a game that finished at two tries all. It wasn’t a top notch performance and captain Cameron Smith said there was still plenty of room for improvement as the Kangaroos field their full-strength side for their clash against England.

England survived a scare against Scotland after conceding the opening two tries on their way to a less than convincing 38-12 victory. England was playing atrociously to start the game with simple handling errors costing them possession. They failed to capitalize on favourable field position from poor Scotland discipline with lazy goal-line attack and an upset was starting to take shape as Scotland led 8-0 after 25 minutes. A double to Elliott Whitehead before the break got England back into their groove and in the second half they ran in five tries to better inflate the scoreline to pre-game expectations.

Australia and England last clashed in the 2014 Four Nations with Australia narrowly prevailing 16-12. England had taken the lead into half-time but they were unable to take control of the match and the Kangaroos took advantage of a six minute lapse in concentration to post two tries which was enough to secure them the win. A debateable no-try call on Ryan Hall in the last minute of the game meant England were about a fingernail away from defeating Australia but ultimately they were left to rue what could have been a momentous upset.

Key Battle

Battle of the backs. The forward packs match up pretty evenly on paper but it’s the massive difference in class in the outside backs that give Australia the clear advantage. The halves combo of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk with Darius Boyd chiming in on sweep plays is unmatched and England’s backs will have to be absolutely on-point in defence if they’re to repel attacking raids from Australia. Their timing on defensive reads like rushing in to close down a play or sliding on the goal-line will need to be perfect.

Gareth Widdop and whoever partners him in the halves will need to have the game of their lives if they’re to give England any chance of winning this game. Their kicking game has to be pinpoint and they will need to pile as much pressure on Australia’s goal-line as they can. England does possess some genuine strike power in their backline with quality attacking players like Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins. The responsibility will be on the halves and fullback Jonny Lomax to get the ball to them early and in good position to produce points.

For Australia they need to do little more than have their forwards make the metres and the points will come. Perhaps the only real question their backline has is the inclusion of Josh Dugan at centre and his relative inexperience in the position and refusal to pass the ball stunting an attacking play or two.

Prediction

England have shown they have what it takes to compete on equal terms with Australia but they ultimately lack the finesse and game management skills to close out a victory. With Wayne Bennett at the helm, the English team can learn those skills but for the present moment it’ll be out of their reach. Australia by 12+ points

Squads
Australia
1 Darius Boyd
2 Valentine Holmes
3 Josh Dugan
4 Greg Inglis
5 Blake Ferguson
6 Johnathan Thurston
7 Cooper Cronk
8 Matt Scott
9 Cameron Smith
10 Aaron Woods
11 Boyd Cordner
12 Matt Gillett
13 Trent Merrin
Interchange
14 David Klemmer
15 Michael Morgan
16 Tyson Frizell
17 Sam Thaiday
18 Shannon Boyd
19 Justin O’Neill

England
1 Jonny Lomax
2 Jermaine McGillvary
3 Kallum Watkins
4 Mark Percival
5 Ryan Hall
6 Gareth Widdop
7 Luke Gale/George Williams
8 Chris Hill
9 Josh Hodgson
10 James Graham
11 John Bateman
12 Elliott Whitehead
13 Sam Burgess
Interchange
14 Thomas Burgess
15 George Burgess
16 Mike Cooper
17 Daryl Clark
18 Kevin Brown