England will kick off Rugby League World Cup 2013 against arch-rivals Australia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday (2.30pm), and hooker James Roby says there is no better team for them to face following their defeat to Italy.
Steve McNamara’s side are looking to bounce back from their surprise 15-14 reverse, and Roby is looking to prove it was a one-off.
The Saints pivot, who endured an injury-hit season in Super League, is aiming to be selected in the starting line after featuring in Saturday’s warm-up game from the interchange bench and said the defeat may have proved to be better for the team than a landslide victory.
“Maybe losing worked in our favour,” said Roby. “I know a lot of people expected us to win and put a bit of a score on Italy but by losing it’s rattled our cage a little bit.
“We know we need to perform and we know we need to improve a hell of a lot. We’ve got the game against Australia and we need to get going from the off and set a marker. That will send out the message that last week was a one-off.
“To be honest everything was going really well. We had a great training camp in South Africa, we prepared as well as we could and the altitude certainly helped. But on the day we just didn’t perform and it wasn’t a nice dressing room to be in after that sort of defeat.”
Five players in the England squad have been selected from the NRL, and Roby feels that experience will count when taking on the Kangaroos on Saturday.
“There’s no better way to turn it around than playing against Australia,” he said. “They’re the favourites for the competition and rightly so; they’ve got a lot of great players who’ve been playing in internationals for many years and played in big games and big finals. They are used to winning and used to success.
“They’ve been a similar team for the last few years. We’ve played against them a number of times so we know what to expect.
“But the likes of the Burgess brothers, Gareth Widdop and James Graham have a lot more info on them than we do.
“We’ve got all the clips and videos and we can pick up little pointers here and there but the NRL lads are playing against them week in, week out so they’ll have a few things that we might not know and that can only help us.”
Despite the defeat to Italy, the 2007 Super League Man of Steel believes it could turn out to be a good result for the tournament.
“Obviously we wanted the win and we’re not happy that we lost,” he said. “But on a different point it could increase the excitement of the World Cup.
“Hopefully it puts the image out that the World Cup is going to be a competitive competition across all teams.
“You’re not just going to have your two or three teams who are ranked at the top winning every game. It’s not going to be a given that they’ll win and they’ll hopefully be a bit more variety in the results.
“It’d be nice to see a few more surprises down the line which would make it more exciting for people to watch and more exciting for the Rugby League audience.
“Italy beating us may even improve the game of Rugby League in Italy, you never know, it might kick-start something over there.”
By Liam Williams