The Newsroom previews the opening round of the Four Nations Tournament.
The opening round of the tournament starts this weekend seeing Australia take on Scotland and England up against the reigning champions New Zealand.
Australian Kangaroos v Scottish Bravehearts
Australia meets Four Nations debutants and underdogs Scotland in this opening round clash. The Australian coach, Mal Meninga, has made several changes to the side that comfortably beat New Zealand 26-6 in Perth earlier this month. Meninga, who promised all 24 members of the squad would get a run, has named five debutants for the opener. Fullback Matt Moylan, centre Justin O’Neill, five-eighth James Maloney and lock Jake Trbojevic join the run-on side; Jake Friend will come off the bench. Winger Josh Mansour and prop Aaron Woods return to the line-up while Valentine Holmes drops to 18th man. Darius Boyd, Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Matt Gillett, Boyd Cordner and Matt Scott will sit out the match.
Scotland comes into this game on a high after winning their warm-up match 48-16. Coach Steve McCormack has named several NRL stars in his 19-man squad, Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote and centre Kane Linnett, Dragons centre Euan Aitken and ex-Titans prop Luke Douglas among them. Senior players five-eighth Danny Brough and fullback Matty Russell will guide Scotland around the park.
Players to watch are the five-eighths for both teams – Australia’s Maloney and Scotland’s Brough. NRL premiership winner Maloney’s opposite number will captain the Bravehearts in his 21st match for Scotland. Kick-off is scheduled for Saturday 6am (AEDT) at KC Lightstream Stadium, Hull.
England v New Zealand Kiwis
New Zealand will begin their Four Nations title defence against host nation England. Both teams are looking to start strong in what is a crucial match for their finals aspirations. England is coming off a great win against France – 40-6 – in their warm-up game. James Graham left the field early in that match due to a head knock but is expected to be cleared to play.
The Kiwis, entering the game on a low after their heavy loss to Australia, will need to apply more pressure against the English side than they managed against Australia. The Kiwis’ big men will need to lift if they want to match it with the English forward pack.
Kiwi hooker Isaac Luke will need his forward pack to dominate to give him a platform from which to control the game but faces stiff opposition from counterpart Josh Hodgson. The game will be played at John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield. Kick-off is scheduled for Sunday 12:30am (AEDT). – Paul Burns