Former England and Great Britain captain Jamie Peacock insists that all the pressure is on Australia as they gear up to face England this Sunday, and says that it is vital England get off to a good start to give themselves the best chance of success.
Steve McNamara’s men know that a victory in Melbourne this weekend will not only secure them a place in the Four Nations final, but will also ensure that Australia fail to make the final of a major international tournament for the first time in 60 years.
And Peacock – who served his country with distinction between 2000 and 2011 – says that although the Aussies will be fired up after defeat to New Zealand last weekend, they are missing so many big names that England have a huge chance to create history – with a quick start imperative to heaping the pressure on Tim Sheens’ men.
“They’ll certainly be fired up, that’s for sure. I really think the key for us is the start to the game. They’ve had that many players pull out that they’re weaker – you can’t get away from that fact,” Peacock exclusively told TotalRL.com.
“Some of the players that are missing are really big names, and players you come across once every ten or twenty years. The theory that they have a lot of strength in depth is going to be tested, that’s for sure.
“It’d be great to see England actually dump Australia out of the tournament. There’s added pressure on them, and that’s exactly why the start is key. If you start well and the pressure builds on them, but if you let them start well then some of that pressure eases. They’re staring down the barrel of exiting the tournament, so it’s vital we start well.”
England narrowly beat Samoa in their opening fixture last weekend, but Peacock paid tribute to the squad for playing in such intense conditions less than two weeks after arriving in Australia – without any warm-up games to boot, too.
“To play in that heat that the players really weren’t used to, I thought it was a really good two points. It’s a good start and a good platform that we can use to improve on,” Peacock said.
“I’m sure another eight days Down Under will make sure they’re properly acclimatised too, which is important. I think it takes two to three weeks to get your head around it all; nine days was very short to try and get your head around the conditions and everything to go and play a game like that.
“It was physical, but they played really well, let’s give them some sort of credit. They put in one of their best performances, and it will be interesting to see how they go against New Zealand this weekend, because I thought they were good.
“It was a difficult game for England to play in, and we had to dig deep to win it.”
Peacock admitted England’s strength in depth now puts them in a strong position to win the tournament, as well as kick on over the next few years. He admitted that when he was representing his country, there were always worries over the strength of the England squad – but with forward punch coming from all angles, as well as talent in the backs and from the bench, the squad is in very good shape.
“The forwards were outstanding; the four front rowers were good and the back-rowers as well were very good. There’s a great balance in the team when you consider the bench and the backs, too.
“Going back to when I was playing international Rugby League, you always wondered about the bench and whether there was enough quality there, but we’ve got a very well-rounded team.”
Peacock is part of the BBC’s Four Nations coverage, which continues this week when England face Australia on Sunday, live from 4:30am on BBC Two