The opening game of the 2016 Four Nations sees international superpowers Australia face debutants Scotland at Hull KR’s KC Lightstream Stadium.
Scotland qualified for the tournament following their triumph in the 2014 European Cup and are now the fifth different country to earn a place as the 4th nation and they will be hoping to put in a better performance than Wales, France, Samoa and Papua New Guinea before them.
Australia, as always, come into the competition as clear favourites despite failing to win the Four Nations in 2014. The ten-time World champions and two-time Four Nations winners will come over looking to add to their already decorated honours list.
Mal Meninga has chosen to rest some of his key players for their opening fixture. Darius Boyd, who featured in the warm-up game against New Zealand, will be replaced by a debuting Matt Moylan. Justin O’Neill, James Maloney, Jake Trbojevic and Jake Friend are all also likely to put on the Australian jersey for the first time.
O’Neill will play in place of Greg Inglis while James Maloney will replace Jonathan Thurston in the halves. Matt Scott will be rested and Tyson Frizell and Jake Trbojevic will start for the Kangaroos.
As for Scotland, North Queensland’s Lachlan Coote is in line to make his debut at full-back which means Matty Russell will move to one wing with Wigan’s Lewis Tierney on the other. Danny Addy is likely to drop from the side to be replaced by captain Danny Brough who will partner Ryan Brierley in the halves.
Both sides come into the competition on the back of wins in their warm-up games with Australia beating New Zealand 26-6 and Scotland overcoming a Cumbria select side 16-48. But, the outcome of the game seems a foregone conclusion – a comfortable victory for Australia however with some of their key players being rested it could take them some time to get going. Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will be pivotal for the Kangaroos as they will guide the side around the field and keep their forwards organised.
In the final third the flair and creativity will be provided by the two debutants – James Maloney and Matt Moylan. Maloney will take on the Scotland line and if the performs to the standards he has with the Cronulla Sharks this season it could be a long night for Steve McCormacks men. Moylan will support Maloney in the attacking line and with dangerous centres and wingers either side of him it isn’t hard to see where Australia’s points will come from.
However, Scotland’s back line isn’t too shabby itself. Coote’s NRL experience could be
vital for the Scots as he competes against the Australian superstars every week. Huddersfield half-back duo Brough and Brierley will need to be at their best to cause Australia’s resilient defence problems but if they do manage to create openings then Warrington’s Matty Russell and Wigan’s Lewis Tierney will finish them.
But in the forward battle Scotland will struggle while the likes of Adam Walker, Frankie Mariano, Dale Ferguson and Ben Kavanagh are solid players in the Championship and Super League they will struggle to match the sheer power and speed of Mal Meninga’s pack. Aaron Woods has been a breakout star for Wests over the past two seasons and he will be looking to make a name for himself of the international stage along with Frizell and Trbojevic. Sam Thaiday, as always, will be hard to keep quiet.
Australia: Moylan, Mansour, O’Neill, Dugan, Ferguson; Maloney, Cronk; Woods, Smith, Klemmer, Thaiday, Frizell, Trbojevic.
Interchanges: Friend, Boyd, Morgan, Cordner.
Scotland: Coote, Russell, Hellewell, Linnett, Tierney; Brough, Brierley; Walker, Hood, Douglas, Phillips, Ferguson, Kavanagh.
Interchanges: Moran, Brooks, Mariano, Maneely.
Referee: Ben Thaler
While this Scotland side is definitely the strongest they’ve ever fielded it would take a brave man to even think that it could compete with the elite of Australia. The Bravehearts will come out fired up and may put in a solid display for the first 15-20 minutes but they will soon set in as they succumb to the power and skill of the Australian side. Once Maloney and Cronk settle in together at scrum half and stand-off the Kangaroos will cross for their first try and it could end up being a rather heavy defeat for Scotland after that but McCormack’s side will get on the scoreboard.
Prediction: Australia 58-6 Scotland