Rugby League World Cup: England to beat Kangaroos with head start
England head into their first Rugby League World Cup final in 22 years as 13/2 underdogs to upset Australia.
Wayne Bennett's side booked their place in Saturday's showpiece (0900 GMT) by surviving a late onslaught from Tonga, who overcame a 16-2 half-time deficit to beat New Zealand in such thrilling fashion during the group stage.
Australia's progress could not have gone more smoothly and they were only really tested in the curtain-raiser to the tournament - an 18-4 victory against the team they face in the final.
On that day, England took the lead through Jermaine McGillvary's early try and with just six minutes to go there were just six points separating the sides.
The Kangaroos may be 1/11 favourites to win the World Cup for the 11th time in 15 editions, but England have what it takes to defend an 18.5-point start on the handicap.
Australia full-back Billy Slater, for one, is taking for nothing for granted and cited several of England's star players who could prove dangerous at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, including stand-off Gareth Widdop, plus wingers McGillvary and Ryan Hall.
He said: "They have got just as much chance as us. It all comes down to the 80 minutes on Saturday night. Whoever performs the best and plays the best rugby league will win the World Cup. They have put themselves in a pretty handy position.
"Both their wingers have really impressed me, especially after our first encounter down in Melbourne. McGillvary and Hall are so hard to handle, they are big, strong lads so we are going to have to make sure our kick chase is the best it's been all tour and handle them with a lot of numbers and be quite physical because that is how they run the ball.''
McGillvary has scored five tries in the tournament, but that figure pales into significance compared with the 11 Valentine Holmes has from his last two fixtures. The pair met in the group game and last year when the Kangaroos prevailed 36-18 at the London Stadium to reach the Four Nations final.
Huddersfield star McGillvary said: "He's a fantastic young winger, one of the best in the world at the moment, and scoring for fun. He's a great player and it's always an honour to play against him. He works hard for his tries, too, he's a real strong, yardage carrier, he's got the total package. It's going to be a great test for me.''
Keeping Holmes quiet will be a tough task, but he failed to score in the first match and if England play to their ability they should have the strength to defend an 18.5-point lead as they have done in their last two meetings with Australia.
England to beat Australia with +18.5 points start @ 17/20
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