England keen to honour past legends
It has been 22 years since Great Britain travelled to Melbourne and stunned the Kangaroos with a 33-10 victory.
How they would love to do it again.
Heritage and history will consume Sunday’s do-or-die clash, which marks the 100-year anniversary of the Rorke’s Drift Test.
In what is regarded as one of the greatest moments in Great Britain's sporting history, the tourists defeated Australia at the SCG 14-6 despite finishing the game with just nine players on the field.
The performance drew comparisons from the press at the time with the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, which took place some 30 years prior, in which 139 British troops successfully fought off up to 4,000 Zulu warriors.
On Sunday England will wear a red and white heritage jersey containing the names of all 13 players who took part in that game. Australia will also wear its blue-and-maroon heritage strip.
With such tradition to uphold, not to mention an all-but-assured spot in the final on the line, the importance of the weekend’s test is not lost on England.
“The boys are aware of it. We are all looking forward to wearing the different jersey this week and there is no two ways about it, it is a special occasion when the two countries play each other,” said England coach Steve McNamara.
“To commemorate what was an outstanding feat by a Great Britain team at that stage has certainly been spoken about.”
McNamara was part of the travelling squad and watched from the stands that night in ’92 when an undermanned Great Britain team shocked the Australians.
“It was great, I was up there in the stands with the other players who weren’t picked for the Test match. It was a great night at Princess Park,” said McNamara.
“But it’s not about knocking Australia out, it’s about playing well for England. We have to play extremely well against Australia and if we do that we’ll win the game.”
Stand-in captain James Graham admits that the timing of Sunday’s test is not ideal, given the Kangaroos have had a week to ponder a humbling 30-12 defeat to the Kiwis.
“Yeah I guess so, playing a team off the back of a loss is never good but we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves and not worry too much about what the feelings are or the motivation of the Australian camp,” said Graham.
“We just want to do it for us and for our country.”
Graham will likely retain the captaincy after incumbent Sean O’Loughlin was again left out of the 17-man squad named on Tuesday.
O’Loughlin missed last week’s tournament opener against Samoa as he continues to battle a quad injury. McNamarra said he expected the 31-year-old take part in the captain’s run tomorrow and put his hand up for selection.
Australia and England will record another chapter in this storied rivalry when they kick off at 4pm at AAMI Park.