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The England team celebrates their win over Samoa earlier this year.

England assistant coach Denis Betts says that confidence won't be an issue ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia on Friday night in Melbourne.

The Lions have a history of performing well in first-up games against Australia – they led at half-time in the 2013 World Cup opener – and will take some key players in good form ahead of the 2017 tournament.

"You look at Gareth Widdop who won the Dally M halfback of the year," Betts said. 

"There's plenty of players in there; Sam Burgess had a fantastic end of the year. Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall in the (Super League) grand final. Jonny Lomax has been great. 

"We've got plenty of players with high quality and (who have) performed in big games, and it gives you that experience. Not an edge, but if you want to be regarded as a world-class player, you've got to be playing against the best teams and best players."

"What we did last year, the lads in this group have done together and brought us to this place. The World Cup has always been the goal. The amount of people involved with the Samoan game – that's the strength of this group – how connected they are."

England has had mixed performances against Australia in recent times. Betts admitted that some of his team were hurting from their lack of success but were determined to forge a new history against their traditional rival.

"There are players who have been hurt a couple of times," he said. 

"We've played in some big games against Australia. We can talk about some of the regrets some of the players have had. I hope the players in this group can move forward from the next 10-15 years from the regrets that I've had. It's about performing, being on the big stage and putting ourselves out there."

Betts, a former England captain, echoed head coach Wayne Bennett's comments earlier in the week about the need to perform under pressure.

"When you've got two teams with the best players, it's going to be about who can beat the other one down, standards under pressure, who can execute time and time again and who doesn't get bored of doing the little things well," he said. 

"That's what Test match football against the best sides is all about. Either you win, or you lose by a score or two. We're about performance tomorrow – be a side who doesn't get bored of building pressure.

"This is tournament football. We're going to be better throughout the tournament. Tomorrow is about starting well. How much have we learned last year from the Four Nations, and are we ready to play Australia tomorrow."


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