RLWC – Australia v England Preview | 27th October 2017
Kaine Greenwood previews Friday morning’s World Cup opener between Australia and England.
Australia v England – Friday 10:00
As sure as eggs is eggs Australia are the team to beat in this tournament. Taking them down would be a difficult enough task on home territory but when you factor in the 10-time winners will have their golden beaches and home comforts to relax with as they cruise through the group stages you begin to wonder how they can be stopped.
On top of this we haven’t even talked about the fact they comfortably play the best rugby – everybody else is literally ‘egg-chasing’ in comparison.
Well, the key might come straight off the bat in the opener against England. Putting down a marker that Wayne Bennett’s chosen group can provide a challenge may just make the Kangaroos take one hop backward.
It is about time the founding nation of rugby league proved a match for the sport’s dominating power and while doing so is not a requirement for England’s progress deeper in the tournament it may be so for the mentality of the squad.
Aussie strength in depth
Such is Australia’s hold on the sport that James Tedesco – voted the NRL Players’ Association player of the year – is effectively fourth-choice full-back hasn’t made the 24-man group. That brings a wry smile to the face when you consider the situation within the England camp in that position with Zak Hardaker not available.
This is not the only place where coach Mal Meninga has an embarrassment of riches; player of the tournament from last year’s Four Nations success, Blake Ferguson, has been omitted. That would be a weakness if you weren’t able to call on the quality of Dane Gagai – the best player in the State of Origin series – as a replacement. The stacked nature of Australian selection is always three or four deep.
Even without the mercurial talents of Johnathan Thurston in the centre of the field you don’t automatically worry. That is perhaps the best half to ever play the game unavailable and in Michael Morgan the Aussies can select another experienced head, who may not have the same quality, but can marshall games well enough alongside two of the longstanding Storm trio, Cooper Cronk and (reigning Dally M Winner) Cameron Smith to see through the next month.
If that wasn’t to work against England, Cameron Munster has developed – as seems is almost the norm at Melbourne – into a fine player in his own right after a spell both behind and in place of Billy Slater at full-back. It moulded him for a spot in the heart of the Storm team that took the NRL crown and yet he backs up for the national side.
No stopping the Green And Gold
The Green and Gold are rightly the benchmark for success and having lost just five times in the last decade – all to New Zealand – the 1/5 quotes on a tournament win and retaining the crown appear justified. However, you may well be better holding out for a match price on their opponent in the final. Or even, taking side with the 2.40 about a Australia v England final as a better outright value option.
As for the tournament opener, it may be best to oppose the hosts as while they will probably get the early two points in the standings, last year’s Four Nations test will still hurt the majority of this Wayne Bennett group and they will be determined not to allow the hosts to control with such ease.
England to compete in opener
The pack in that tie never really got going and the game was gone in the opening forty but that is actually an area I believe the two sides are fairly even. A number of NRL-based players are in the the Red and White pack and as such will be well-versed on what is required.
In the backline Ryan Hall remains as consistent as ever and with a try-a-game record over 32 games making him the country’s best-ever tryscorer. That always makes him an attractive option in such markets and a 35/1 offer on him scoring first and last team tries is worth considering.
As an opening tie it is difficult to see either side having an easy time of it, they will be testing the waters so a tight and competitive affair is expected, as such I’m happy to side with a +15.5 handicap on the Sean O’Loughlin-led 17.
Kaine Greenwood’s Best Bets
Rugby League World Cup 2017 – Australia v England final (2.40)
Australia v England – Over 12.5 Points (1.87)
Australia v England – Ryan Hall to score first and last team tries (36.00)
Australia v England – England +15.5 (1.80)