Four Nations: Wayne Bennett must make bold calls to end England's winless streak against Australia

The Australian would perhaps make wholesale changes if he could, as he attempts to end his home country's decade-long winning run against England

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The Independent Online

By Friday night, England will know exactly what they need to do to avoid the embarrassment of being knocked out of the Four Nations series staged on their home soil.

England have been up against it since losing by a single point to New Zealand in their opening match. Now they must not only beat Australia on Sunday at the London Stadium, but do so by a handsome margin, to be determined by the Kiwis' score against Scotland, if they are to qualify for the final at Anfield next weekend.

It seems that only complacency of Clintonesque proportions on somebody's part can save them. The England coach, Wayne Bennett, was profoundly unimpressed by England's efforts against a plucky Scotland. He hinted at wanting to make wholesale changes, but in reality his room for manoeuvre is limited.

His three half-backs have all had the game time he intended, without fully resolving the issue of who will play in the game that really matters. However, George Williams was good enough in the second half against the Scots last week to claim one of the vacancies.

The question then is which of Gareth Widdop and Luke Gale will dovetail best with the Wigan stand-off. Most votes would go to Widdop, but it is possible that Bennett might go the other way.

One thing that the taciturn Australian – parachuted in to try to break his home country's ten year run of victories over England – has decided is that James Graham will play, despite injuring his knee against New Zealand two weeks ago. He was missed last week and will provide a focus for the aggression England must summon up if they are to beat the Aussies for the first time since the Shaun Long-inspired triumph in 2006.

They might have hoped to catch Australia in a transitional phase this time, but there are few signs of obvious weaknesses. Just to add an extra hint of spice, several of the key players, not to mention the coach, Mal Meninga, owe much of their success to the tutelege of Bennett in their formative years.

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Widdop is in contention to start alongside George Williams (Getty)

He has been criticised for his monosyllabic disdain for press conferences, but if England do manage their unlikely win this weekend nobody will be too worried about that any more.

At Workington before that, Lewis Tierney will be on familiar turf after playing there on loan from Wigan for a spell earlier this season. Jason Robinson's son – as he dislikes being called – has been a revelation in Scotland's two games so far, exceeding even the form he showed earlier for Wigan. Danny Brough will equal the record number of Scottish caps and Ryan Brierley is fit after an ankle sprain to give their coach, Steve McCormack, extra options in midfield.

It is not realistic, however, to expect the Scots to come to the rescue of England. The chances are that the damage has already been done.

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