Determined Kangaroos on mission to rebound in Four Nations
AFTER savouring every honour and high that rugby league can offer a player, Cameron Smith has no intention of being remembered as the captain of the first Australian side to miss an international series final in more than 50 years.
Australia has its back to the wall after last weekend's 30-12 loss to New Zealand.
But the resolve in Smith's eyes when he spoke to reporters yesterday ahead of the all-or-nothing Four Nations battle with England in Melbourne tomorrow afternoon suggested a much-improved effort by his team at AAMI Park.
It's unchartered waters for Smith, who took over the captaincy from Broncos great Darren Lockyer in 2012.
Prior to losing to the aggressive Kiwis, Smith, who has won NRL grand finals, Origins, Tests and every individual honour possible, had been part of a 16-Test winning streak by the Kangaroos.
Now he stands on the brink of perhaps the most embarrassing performance by Australia in almost 60 years.
He said the team was off its game against New Zealand, and the rookies in his side had not been prepared for Test-match intensity against a Kiwi side which played aggressively, and with much better ball control than the Kangaroos.
But he said the youngsters would have learned a valuable lesson, especially after big guns Greg Inglis (ill) and Daly Cherry-Evans (hip) failed to return after the half-time break.
Cherry-Evans is expected to play if he trains well tomorrow, with Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt beating Tigers hooker Robbie Farah to a bench role.
New Zealand handed England a blueprint on how to beat Australia, getting in their face with unsettling tactics and using their bigger forwards to work the Kangaroos over, forcing them into a number of uncharacteristic errors.
If anything, England has a bigger forward pack than the Kiwis, which will present a big challenge for the under-strength and undersize Australian pack.
England could regain its captain, lock Sean O'Loughlin, with coach Steve McNamara refusing to rule out the 32-year-old.
"Sean will train today and again tomorrow and hopefully he will come through that and will come through good and will be available for selection," McNamara said.
AUSTRALIA V ENGLAND
AAMI Park, Melbourne,
tomorrow, 3pm (AEST)
Australia: Inglis, Mansour, Jennings, Walker, S Mata'utia, Cherry-Evans, Cronk, Woods, Smith (c), Thaiday, Scott, Bird, Parker. Interchange: Cordner, Farah, Guerra, Hoffman, Hunt, Klemmer, Papalii (three to be omitted).
England: S Tomkins, Charnley, Watkins, Shenton, Hall, Widdop, Smith, G Burgess, Hodgson, Graham (c), Farrell, J Tomkins, Westerman. Interchange: Clark, Ferres,
T Burgess, Hill.