Four Nations battles
Hosts hoping to upset the odds against the Kangaroos at Elland Road
By Rob Lancaster. Last Updated: 18/11/11 11:30am
England and Australia meet for a second time in this year's Four Nations on Saturday, only this time the title is on the line.
The Kangaroos may have won 36-20 in the first clash at Wembley but England are confident they can get revenge at Elland Road, spoiling Darren Lockyer's last ever game in the process.
Ahead of Saturday, skysports.com takes a look at the key positional battles that could decide who is lifting the trophy at around 8pm...
Darius Boyd has moved seamlessly into the role following an injury to the Billy Slater having started the tournament out on the wing. He scored one try and had a hand in several others in the big win over Wales, suggesting Australia will not miss Slater too much in the tournament finale. At the other end of the field will be Sam Tomkins, England's most explosive player with ball in hand; his elusive, unconventional style of running makes him capable of creating something out of nothing. The Kangaroos will want to shut down the Wigan Warrior as quickly as possible, though Tomkins has never been one to shy away from contact.
The engine room provides a mouth-watering battle between a tried-and-tested pairing and a new-look combination that is beginning to bear fruit. Saturday will see Darren Lockyer bring the curtain down on his stellar career and the Australia skipper will want to sign off in style. However, even the legend that is Lockyer has been outshone by Johnathan Thurston so far on this tour - the North Queensland Cowboy's kicking game has been top notch and he is always a threat when in possession. Kevin Sinfield has been impressivetoo, for both club and country, making the switch to stand-off look supremely easy. Alongside him for England will be Rangi Chase, a livewire presence, particularly around the ruck area, who has improved with each international cap he has won.
Cameron Smith is, without a doubt, the best number nine in the world. As well as a brilliant on-field general who marshals his pack around the paddock with military precision, the Melbourne Storm player has a deadly-accurate left boot that can pin opposing teams in deep. His opposite number is bit special too though. James Roby had his best game of the Four Nations so far against New Zealand, suggesting he's peaking at just the right time. He differs from Smith in that he's more of a runner out of dummy-half, no matter whether its the first minute or the last. Roby also never shirks a tackle - he had the second most in the engage Super League in 2011.
The backs may score all the points, but it is the forwards who lay the platform. England have always prided themselves on having a strong pack, led magnificently by skipper Jamie Peacock. Alongside him in the front row will be James Graham - expect the NRL-bound forward to be keen to impress in his final game on English soil for some time. The availablity of the fit-again Gareth Ellis is also a timely boost for the hosts. Australia, meanwhile, will look to Paul Gallen to set the tone in his new role at prop. Sam Thaiday is another who won't take a backwards step - expect him to be right in the faces of Steve McNamara's men from the first whistle. It was noticeable that after a shaky start against the Welsh, Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens threw on both men from the bench to try and spark a turnaround in his side's fortunes.