Meninga bracing for England onslaught
Australia coach Mal Meninga admits his team could be vulnerable as they eye a first-round win against England in the World Cup opener on Friday night.
The Kangaroos have three debutants - winger Dane Gagai, utility Wade Graham and prop Jordan McLean - and Michael Morgan will partner Cooper Cronk for the first time at Test level. Meninga says he's tried his best to create cohesion in preparations.
"We haven't played together for a while," he said.
"Always the first game of a series - any series – you're not quite sure around combinations. We've got a few blokes who haven't played for a while consistently, week in and week out. We worked hard this week on making sure that we help build cohesion.
"It's a sense of the unknown, but I'm fairly confident in the players' abilities."
Meninga has won seven Tests in a row since taking on the Australian job in late 2015. He stressed that complacency isn't an issue with his squad.
"We've worked really hard on making sure we've got our attitudes right for tomorrow night. That's important. Then we'll go from there. We all know how important the first game of the tournament is. For us, it's the Kangaroos. We want to get off to a good start."
"We make sure our preparation is spot on, our leadership group and all our players have bought into what we're trying to achieve. We want to be successful in this World Cup."
England will start as second favourites, but Meninga is wary of their quality across the park. He also endorsed their credentials as possible World Cup finalists.
"They're one of the major forces in the game of rugby league, so they'll be thinking we're at our most vulnerable tomorrow night," he said.
"Again, we're prepared for that. They are a definite threat. They've got a really strong team across 24 players. We'd anticipate them competing and being in the final this year."
Australia has two players who tasted defeat in the 2008 World Cup final: Billy Slater and Cameron Smith. Meninga says it still hurts the duo and they are desperate to reverse the result this time around.
"It's great as a team to play on home soil - dealing with expectations and the responsibility that comes with that," he said.
"We obviously want to win it on home soil. We haven't done that for a while. We lost in 2008.
"That’s obviously in the back of players' minds, certainly those that played in that series. They want to be successful this time and turn it all around."