AUSTRALIA will be hoping its Rugby League World Cup comes full circle when it plays England in the final at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The Kangaroos defeated the Poms 18-4 in the tournament opener and coasted through its next four matches to reach the decider, conceding just 16 points along the way. There are rumours tonight could see the final appearance of Billy Slater and perhaps even Cameron Smith in the green and gold, and a win would provide them with the perfect send-off if they decide to hang up the boots.
England scraped through its semi-final against Tonga to book its place against the home side tonight. Wayne Bennett’s men won 20-18 after Andrew Fifita’s try in the dying seconds was disallowed because of a knock-on and they will be hoping fortune favours them again against the Kangaroos.
Kick-off is scheduled for 8pm AEDT.
Earlier former Australian forward Gorden Tallis said he didn’t think the home side’s pack could match it with England’s big men if Sam Burgess and James Graham fired, but ex-NSW prop Mark Geyer disagreed.
“No, I don’t think they (England) have (the edge in the forwards),” Geyer told Channel Seven.
“Australia’s strength has been their forwards, in particular (David) Klemmer and (Aaron) Woods and then on comes (Reagan) Campbell-Gillard and (Jordan) McLean, with (Cameron) Smith guiding the ship.
“Their forward back has been immense. Sam Burgess tonight as captain will lead from the front and will be inspiring tonight.”
The stage is set for stand-in England skipper Sam Burgess to dominate an inferior Kangaroos pack and inspire a boilover in the Rugby League World Cup final in Brisbane, Gorden Tallis says.
Former Kangaroos enforcer Tallis has rated Burgess as the greatest British forward to play in the NRL and believes the South Sydney talisman can prove the difference against overwhelming favourite Australia at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
England appeared to cop a huge blow before its first Cup final appearance in 22 years when captain Sean O’Loughlin ruled himself out with a quad injury on match eve.
But Tallis believes Burgess can still provide enough firepower to blow away what he considered a lesser Kangaroos pack.
“He is one of the best forwards I have ever seen,” Tallis told a Rugby League World Cup final function in Brisbane.
“He is the best English forward that has come out here to play, I think he is absolutely outstanding.”
Tallis believes Burgess could pack a one-two punch with England forward James Graham that could give the Australian forwards nightmares.
“If he and James Graham can play the way they do in the NRL, if they can play with that intimidation and ferocity I don’t think the Australian forward pack are as good as those guys,” Tallis said.
“Australia have a great back-row but if those two guys can light it up and play to the best of their ability I think they will give the Australian pack a real nightmare.”
Back-rower Burgess will replace O’Loughlin at lock, with Ben Currie starting on the edge and utility Jonny Lomax added to the bench.
O’Loughlin is the second key forward coach Wayne Bennett has lost in a week, following star hooker Josh Hodgson’s torn ACL in the semi-final win over Tonga.
England has not won a series involving Australia since 1972. And it last beat Australia at a World Cup in 1995.
But Burgess was daring to dream, even contemplating who would lift the trophy for England if Australia — undefeated at a World Cup since 2008 — was somehow denied.
“I don’t think it gets much better than the World Cup final and it will be a special moment, although it’s kind of bittersweet if I’m honest,” said Burgess who led England in last year’s Four Nations tournament.
“Sean has been captain the whole tournament and he’ll lift the trophy if we get to that situation.”
— Laine Clark, AAP