Tony Smith has named an unchanged England team for the first time, in what could be his last game in charge. Smith has given a vote of confidence to the side that beat New Zealand last Saturday for the Gillette Four Nations final against Australia in Leeds tomorrow.
This is despite his admission that two of his successes last week will face a very different challenge this time in the shape of the most potent centre-wing partnership in the world. Chris Bridge and Peter Fox coped well against the Kiwis, but Australia are set to switch the International Player of the Year, Jarryd Hayne, to the left, to team up with Greg Inglis in a potentially destructive combination.
Even Smith admits that there are no guarantees that such a pairing can be kept quiet for 80 minutes. "Teams spend months and months preparing to face them and trying to do that and it doesn't always work," he said.
"Chris and Peter did a bit of learning on the job last week. But it's not just about them; it's whether the whole team can read the different situations they are going to be faced with."
Smith has again opted for four props in the starting line-up, plus the redoubtable Eorl Crabtree on the bench, and the Australia coach Tim Sheens has given himself the option of a similarly forward-orientated 17 for Elland Road. Sheens has named a six-man bench, including four forwards, and will not decide which four to use until the day of the match.
"We will have a look at the conditions and the weather," said Sheens, who has decided to give the converted winger Luke Lewis his first Test start in the second row. "He's a strong defender who gives us a little bit of extra thrust," he said.
The Catalan Dragons have lost one Australian Test forward for next season, but gained another. Jason Ryles has returned home just 12 months into a three-year contract, but Dallas Johnson is coming on a three-year deal.
George and Tom Burgess, the 17-year-old twin brothers of the England forward, Sam, have signed full-time contracts at Bradford, where they could help to plug the gap left by his impending departure for South Sydney. A fourth brother, Luke, is in the first-team squad at Leeds. Oldham have been told that they can no longer share Boundary Park with Oldham Athletic.
England team for tomorrow's Four Nations final v Australia at Elland Road (kick-off 7.30pm): S Briscoe (Hull KR); P Fox (Hull KR), C Bridge (Warrington), M Shenton (Castleford), R Hall (Leeds); S Tomkins (Wigan), K Eastmond (St Helens); A Morley (Warrington), K Sinfield (Leeds), J Graham (St Helens), J Peacock (Leeds, capt), G Ellis (Wests Tigers), S Burgess (Bradford). Substitutes: J Roby (St Helens), E Crabtree (Huddersfield), B Westwood (Warrington), J Wilkin (St Helens).Reuse content