With just a matter of days until England take on New Zealand in the first Test at Hull, talk is already starting to turn towards potential teams for that game.
England are likely to have a fully-fit squad to select from for the game on Sunday, which makes team selections all the more intriguing. But with some key battles on the horizon, what are the key areas in which England can hope to have the upper hand?
The experience of Gareth Widdop
At the age of just 26 and with 15 senior caps to his name, it seems a tad peculiar to call Gareth Widdop experienced at international level. But with so much inexperience around him on both sides in the halves, he represents the most senior of the likely half-backs on show this weekend.
Widdop also possesses plenty of top-flight NRL experience, and with Peta Hiku and Tuimoala Lolohea on the opposite side far less experienced, England will be hopeful the St George half-back’s big-game nous can come to the fore.
With George Williams likely to partner him in the halves too, his experience will be more crucial than ever, and could have a big say in what happens over the three Tests.
James Roby’s freshness
If Saturday’s game against France was anything to go by, then James Roby is going to be playing a very different role for England this year than what he has done for St Helens. As we all know, Roby is Saints’ marathon man when out on the field for them, lofting playing 80 minutes and going through a ridiculous amount of work.
But on Saturday, he was spelled as a hooker with Josh Hodgson, and the two did seem to work in tandem quite well. That will obviously mean a fresher and fitter Roby for the spells he is on the field, which could be a big problem for New Zealand.
Roby is often dynamic and destructive in the latter parts of games having played the full match, so the prospect of him tearing into the Kiwis with only half that game time in his legs is an exciting proposition for England fans – the same can even be applied to Josh Hodgson, too.
Versatility and options
New Zealand’s full-back will be Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Their hooker will be Issac Luke. That much is obvious – but England have options.
And it’s not the options pre-match that England have which could help them, it’s during the game too. Full-back is a prime example; if Sam Tomkins gets the nod to start at centre, Zak Hardaker is likely to revert to a role at centre.
But if England are struggling to unlock the Kiwis in the halves, Tomkins can move up to the front and Hardaker can slot in at full-back. The likes of John Bateman can also be key, slotting in at centre or in the forwards to accommodate such a move.
Do New Zealand have that level of versatility in their team? Given the inexperience of some of their key men we don’t know just yet, but on the face of it, England have a nice level of depth to play around with in-game, as well as in between them.