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England coach Steve McNamara has lit the fuse for what shapes as an explosive Four Nations opener by declaring his forward pack more than capable of handling the challenge set down by the Kiwis.<br><br>With just three preliminary games before the final and Australia at prohibitive odds to win the tournament for the second year in a row, the Kangaroos’ likely opponent in the November 13 final could all hinge on who wins the first match at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday night.<br><br>Although the Kiwis are blessed with such depth in the forwards that they could afford to overlook former captain Roy Asotasi, McNamara is confident that he has at his disposal a pack that can handle whatever the likes of Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Frank Pritchard, Adam Blair, Greg Eastwood and Bronson Harrison throw at his men.<br><br>“Obviously we have got some big forwards ourselves. To be fair we’re probably one of the biggest English teams to leave our shores in a long, long time in terms of physical attributes,” McNamara told “I’m very, very happy with what we’ve got in that area, we know we’re going to come up against some pretty fierce forward packs during the Four Nations.<br><br>“We’ve certainly got the players there to get us on the front foot and then we have got some pretty damaging runners on the edges.”<br><br>The English cause has been dealt a major blow by the biceps injury suffered by captain Adrian Morley in last weekend’s trial game against the New Zealand Maori, ruling the inspirational front-rower out of the tournament. His place in the squad has been taken by Warrington 29-year-old Garreth Carvell while experienced prop James Graham has been given the honour of leading his country.<br><br>The success in the NRL of Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess has helped to fuel the confidence levels among their team-mates, while 35-Test veteran Stuart Fielden returns to the fold following an outstanding season in which he helped Wigan break a 12-year Super League title drought.<br><br>Add to these four the 198cm-, 118kg-frame of charismatic Huddersfield talisman Eorl Crabtree (you won’t miss the giant with the flowing blond locks) and England have every reason to feel confident about their prospects in the physical exchanges.<br><br>Although Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney has the noted big men Fuifui Moimoi, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Ben Matulino at his disposal, he has opted to start with a more mobile pack on Saturday night, including Eastwood at prop and Harrison, Jeremy Smith and Simon Mannering in the back row.<br><br>In order to give his team the best possible chance of Four Nations success in 2010, McNamara embarked on a reconnaissance mission to Australia prior to the NRL finals series where he tapped into the brain of Roosters coach Brian Smith. Following his side’s grand final loss to St George Illawarra, Smith linked with the English squad and is another key factor in the English preparation.<br><br>“Brian Smith is vital to us because I thought that was an area we were probably down a bit on, our research and knowledge of the opposition and Brian has come on board with us and been a great help in that regard,” McNamara revealed.<br><br>“In a competition such as this when you have only got three games, certainly there is not much room for error. I think in the past perhaps England teams haven’t had the best preparation in terms of a warm-up game these past couple of years but playing against the Maoris gave us the chance to work on a few things before we started to focus on the New Zealand game.”<br><br>Their sheer size dictates that England’s forwards will garner much of the pre-match attention but there are some speedy outside backs waiting to pounce should the likes of Burgess and Ellis create havoc on the edges.<br><br>Wigan flyer Darrell Goulding crossed for 25 tries in just 20 Super League appearances in 2010, while Ryan Hall (Leeds) had 23 tries to his name along with 78 tackle busts, the ninth highest of any Super League player.<br><br>Halfback Sam Tomkins and livewire utility Luke Robinson will be crucial up against the in-form Kiwi halves of Benji Marshall and Nathan Fien, with Tomkins already proving a major threat at international level. He scored four tries in the mid-year Test against France and had the most tackle busts (109) in Super League this year. He was again outstanding at half in last weekend’s 18-all draw with New Zealand Maori, scoring twice and proving to be a constant threat across the park. With Robinson, a ball of supercharged muscle ready and waiting to come in at hooker or half from the bench, McNamara believes enthusiasm can make up for any perceived lack of experience.<br><br>“The outside backs are very young. The average age of the squad is 25, which has come down from 27 at the World Cup a couple of years ago,” McNamara said. “Our outside backs in particular are very young boys so they have got no fear in them so we’re looking forward to seeing how they perform.<br><br>“It’s probably not an area where we have got a great deal of depth but the wingers we have got in this squad have all been scoring plenty of tries in the English Super League, so I’m pretty happy with the options we have got in that area as well.”<br><br>
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