3 days ago
Brits ready for Kangaroos
Great Britain have the chance to gain revenge for last year's Ashes whitewash in their opening match of the Tri-Nations against Australia on Saturday. The Lions lost the series 3-0 after squandering winning positions in all three Tests.
But under new coach Brian Noble, a revamped squad are optimistic of ending Australia's traditional dominance.
"There's an air of quiet confidence in the team. But we don't want to compete - we want to win it," said Noble.
Noble will not announce his final 17 until an hour before kick-off, although it is believed that the players already know the side with Danny McGuire and Sean O'Loughlin both set to make their international debuts. The likes of Paul Sculthorpe, skipper Andy Farrell, Keith Senior and Adrian Morley - desperate to make up for his sending-off after 12 seconds of the first Test last year - are in some of the best form of their careers.
And Sculthorpe is in no doubts about the capabilities of the squad assembled by Noble.
"This is probably the most gifted squad I've been involved with," said Sculthorpe. "We were close last year but at the end of the day we lost 3-0 and that's all that counts.
"They beat us last year because we didn't play for the full 80 minutes but we're ready to do that now.
"We believe in our own ability but there's only one place to show that and it's out on the field. We're confident we can do a job." Australia looked back to something approaching their best in the second match against New Zealand, but have been hit by the loss of skipper Darren Lockyer and Craig Fitzgibbon.
Nevertheless, the most successful team in international rugby league start as the bookmakers' favourites.
The Kangaroos have bought in Brett Kimmorley - the Lions' tormentor in last year's series - at scrum-half, while Andrew Ryan comes into the second row.
"We're expecting the competition to be very close, based on last season in particular.
"When Australia came home last year, they all realised how fortunate they were to win the series."
Some of the build-up to the match has been overshadowed by arguments over Glen Black's appointment as referee.
The Australians feel that Black, who officiates in the New Zealand domestic league, is not sufficiently experienced to take charge of a major international. But Noble responded by accusing Australia of trying to exert pressure on Black and the referee looks likely to keep his place.