Rugby League Expert & Columnist
England must be smart against Australia, says Terry O'Connor
Last Updated: 01/12/17 6:52pm
Have England a chance on Saturday? Of course!
It's obvious, but there are only two teams in the final - so yes, they've got a chance. As always seems to be the case though, there's so much negative talk around the team - playing John Bateman out of position, for example, while leaving out the best centre in Super League last year - but Wayne Bennett has done his job, getting England to a first World Cup Final in 22 years.
To get to the final, England beat a Tongan side littered with NRL superstars like former Kangaroo prop Andrew Fifita, and Golden Boot nominee Jason Taumalolo. Kristian Woolf's side have been the success story of this tournament, and although the late collapse will have alarm bells ringing for Bennett, to shut out a team of Tonga's quality for 71 minutes should give England huge confidence going into the biggest game of their lives.
But they're up against the world's best. There's no panic about the Kangaroos from minute one to minute 80; Melbourne spine Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater lead an outstanding team around the park, and everyone else just does their job. And if you do manage to shut down them down then someone else will get you.
There's an arrogance about the Aussies and I don't mean that negatively. Even if they find themselves 16 points down, they'll still believe they can win the game, whereas an England side leading by 16 would be waiting for the comeback.
And they've only conceded 16 points this tournament. I'll repeat that; just 16 points shipped over five games. Ten in three group games; six in the knockout stages. That in itself illustrates the size of England's task. Meanwhile in attack, Valentine Holmes starts in Brisbane on the back of an incredible 11 tries in just two matches - he's already halfway to my career total.
But England have the personnel to win. As ever, they've always been able to compete up front where the forwards have not been dominated all tournament. A mobile pack, all 6ft 2in and 17st, with footwork like Jason Robinson!
I've been impressed with the back three - Gareth Widdop, Ryan Hall and the outstanding Jermaine McGillvary - and even though James Roby has shone when introduced from the bench so far, let's not forget he's made his name as an 80-minute player. Roby needs intelligence around him though. If England can hold onto the ball and complete their sets, then the St Helens hooker won't have to tire himself out making 50 tackles and can focus on what they do in possession.
I'll finish by congratulating Wayne, Denis Betts and the team on an outstanding achievement in reaching the final. You're 80 minutes from making history - now go and win it!