Adrian Morley says England will need to close down his Warrington Wolves team-mate Lee Briers if they are to make a winning start to their Gillette Four Nations campaign against Wales at Leigh Sports Village tomorrow.
Veteran prop Morley has identified the 33-year-old stand-off as Wales’ biggest threat as the 100-1 outsiders look to make an impact on their tournament debut.
Briers, who is a year younger than his Wolves captain, won only one Great Britain cap - against France in 2001 - but is a proven competitor on the big stage, having starred for his country in a World Cup semi-final and for his club in a cup final at Wembley.
“He’s the most experienced player out of the whole squad,” said Morley. “It’s great that he gets the chance to play in a tournament like the Four Nations.
“He’ll be the danger man. I know him probably better than most. He’s a terrific player with some fantastic skills so we’re going to have to watch him.
“He’s gone very well this year. He’s looking after himself a lot better now. He really has been influential for the Warrington side.”
A Briers-led Wales will play with passion but logic, as well as history, is against them.
Scrum-half Ian Watson, who turned 35 yesterday, is the only player who was born the last time Wales won in England, a 6-2 success at Headingley in the 1977 European Championship.
Coach Iestyn Harris was at centre in Wales’ last victory over England, an 18-16 triumph in the 1995 European Championship at Ninian Park, but they have lost seven in a row since then and it would be a major upset if that run was to come to an end tomorrow.
Briers claimed this week that Wales were being ignored in the build-up to the tournament but Morley insists England are treating them with respect.
“We’re certainly not writing them off,” he said. “They’ve got some really tricky players, Lee Briers in particular.
“We’re preparing for a tough game. They’re going to be very spirited. If you go into any game under-done you’ll be in for a rude awakening. We’ll treat them with the respect they deserve.”
Morley, who made his international debut in 1996, has been blown away by the professionalism of the England camp, in particular the meticulous attention to detail that has gone into their preparations for the Four Nations, and says there will be no excuse if the team come up short.
“It’s light years ahead of what it used to be like in terms of professionalism,” said Morley, who was among a host of players released by their Engage Super League clubs to attend a series of elite training camps during the season.
“When I first started playing first team there was a big drinking culture, a bit of old school, which I enjoyed to a degree.
“But when the Super League era came along that went out of the window and year on year it’s getting more professional and the facilities are getting better and better at club and certainly international level.
“We can’t have any excuses with the preparation we’ve had. We’re definitely giving ourselves the best possible chance.
“The boys are not being pampered but, if they need anything, the management sort things out the best they can. Everything is in place; we just need to convert that now into performances.”
Morley, who has a Welsh grandmother and briefly considered playing for Wales alongside brother Chris in 2000, has been one of the cornerstones of the England pack for a decade and reckons the 2011 Four Nations could provide a major breakthrough for the sport in this country.
“If we could win it, I think it would be a huge shot in the arm for the game of rugby league,” he said.
“I’ve played for a very long time and only ever won one Test series (against New Zealand). I’ve come up short a number of times.
“For me personally, it would be fantastic and it would put us on the map as a sport. People would take notice of us which is what we want.