Kangaroos look to kick-start their campaign with a bang in Cardiff on Saturday.
Australia coach Tim Sheens on Thursday named a team packed with experience to play England in the opening match of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Cameron Smith, one of five squad survivors from the last World Cup in 2008 when New Zealand surprised the Kangaroos 34-20 in the final, captains the team from hooker.
Outstanding fullback Billy Slater, half-back Johnathan Thurston, centre Greg Inglis and loose-forward Paul Gallen were also part of that squad from five years ago, and all start in the Welsh capital.
The squad features 13 players who played in Australia’s 32-12 victory over New Zealand earlier this year.
Sheens gave a surprise call-up to veteran Brent Tate, who capitalises on the injury to Justin Hodges to win a starting spot next to Inglis in midfield.
Tate made his Australia debut way back in 2002 but the 31-year-old North Queensland Cowboys back has had to battle against a range of injuries since then.
“His experience won out at the end,” Sheens said of Tate. “I really wanted to go with the guys that had plenty of experience.”
Robbie Farah got the nod on the bench ahead of Daly Cherry-Evans to offer coverage for half-backs Thurston and Cooper Cronk.
“I like the idea of Farah’s dummy-half running against the English forwards, especially when they get tired,” Sheens said.
“Cameron (Smith) can then go back to 13 and play a ball-playing role. I won’t be replacing Cameron unless he needs a break.”
Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita will make his debut for the Kangaroos after being named in the interchange, the sole prop, as Sheens opts for versatility.
Brett Morris got the start ahead of Jarryd Hayne on the right wing, Darius Boyd filling in on the left flank.
“We have to cover every base,” Sheens said. “We’ve got, hopefully, every scenario covered in this first game.”
“It’s a good squad,” he added. “It’s a good mix.
“The team’s just keen to get out there and play. We’ll be ready come Saturday.
“Winning it doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the final and losing it doesn’t mean you won’t make the final, but it’s about getting away to a good, confident start and I think that’s important for us.
“Also it keeps you on the side of the draw where you’re not likely to run into the other powerhouse, New Zealand, who are playing on the other side of the draw.
“If you lose to England, we’re likely to meet New Zealand on the way through, whereas we’d ideally like to be meeting England or New Zealand in the final.”
Billy Slater; Brett Morris, Brent Tate, Greg Inglis, Darius Boyd; Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk; Matthew Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou; Greg Bird, Sam Thaidy; Paul Gallen
Interchange: Robbie Farah, Andrew Fifita, Luke Lewis, Corey Parker, Jarryd Hayne, Nate Miles