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England v Australia key battles

England v Australia key battles

Wednesday 29 November 2017

England v Australia key battles

England take on defending champions Australia in the World Cup final on Saturday

Australia put their World Cup crown on the line when they meet England in Saturday’s final in Brisbane.

Here, we examine the key tussles that could determine the outcome of England’s first final appearance for 22 years.

Gareth Widdop (England) v Billy Slater (Australia)

Billy Slater is Australia's full-back
Billy Slater is one of Australia’s dangermen (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Widdop was the understudy to Slater when he set out on his NRL career with Melbourne and, after spending the last seven years moulding himself into a talented stand-off, has found himself back in the number one jersey and going up against his old mentor. Slater, even at 34, has demonstrated he still has what it takes to perform at the very highest level and has broken the record for most tries in World Cup history while Widdop has played a major role in England’s run to the final after revelling in his old position.

James Roby (England) v Cameron Smith (Australia)

James Roby could play 80 minutes in the final
James Roby is the only specialist hooker available to England in the final (Richard Sellers/PA)

The two veteran hookers could spend as much time on the field as anybody as they continue to roll back the years with some vintage displays. Roby forced his way back into the England side on the back of a magnificent season with St Helens and, after starting out as their second-choice number nine, will be determined to make the most of the opportunity caused by injury to Josh Hodgson. Smith remains a hugely-influential figure for the Kangaroos and his exceptional form in 2017 was recognised with the Golden Boot award.

Sam Burgess (England) v Boyd Cordner (Australia)

Sam Burgess is one of England's most influential players
Sam Burgess suffered an injury during the group-stage defeat to Australia (Nigel French/PA)

The excitement for England is that their talisman Sam Burgess has yet to hit top form in an injury-hit World Cup campaign and may have saved his best for last. On his day he is arguably the most destructive forward in the business and a player Boyd Cordner says he looks up to. Cordner is New South Wales’ Origin captain no less and is playing well enough to keep in-form second rowers Tyson Frizell and Wade Graham out of the Kangaroos’ starting line-up.

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