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Cunningham lays it on the line
Hooker Keiron Cunningham wants Great Britain to be boring against Australia when they attempt to get their Gillette Tri-Nations show back on the road at Wigan on Saturday.
The Loftus Road crowd were treated to an 11-try feast when Britain opened their campaign against New Zealand a week ago but the Lions went down 42-26 to leave themselves with an enormous task if they are to reach the November 26 final.
Britain conceded seven tries and a record number of points against the Kiwis and Cunningham, who made an impressive return to the international scene after a three-year absence, admits they need to find a massive improvement against the world champions.
"Defensively, we weren?t up to scratch," he said. "We couldn?t jump from attack to defence as well as we should have and we turned the ball over a lot which made us defend even more. You can?t afford to do that in Test match rugby, playing against the best in the world.
"Basically, you?ve got to play a boring game and just grind sets out and kick the ball - try to make the opposition come up with the errors. Last weekend, it was us coming up with the errors that allowed New Zealand to score the points."
Coach Brian Noble has shuffled his line-up, recalling Iestyn Harris at stand-off, switching Kevin Sinfield to loose forward and elevating Adrian Morley into the starting line-up at prop.
Britain need a repeat of last year?s 24-12 victory at the JJB Stadium if they are to keep alive their title hopes but Cunningham knows the Kangaroos will be equally desperate for the points after losing their opening game to New Zealand.
"Australia are a different kettle of fish," he said. "There will be a lot of emotion in the game. The Aussies and Brits love bashing each other, so it?s going to be pretty heated and it?s going to be a very fast game.
"But I?m very confident we can stand up to the challenge. We were battered and bruised and feeling sorry for ourselves on Monday morning but we can move on."
Britain are expecting big performances from Morley and fellow prop Stuart Fielden while Saturday?s game will enable Cunningham to renew his front-row rivalry with Australia hooker Danny Buderus, who has taken advantage of the St Helens forward?s absence from Test-match rugby to seize his unofficial title as the game?s leading hooker.
The pair last met in the ill-fated one-off Test of 2002 in Sydney, where the Lions suffered a record 64-4 mauling and Cunningham was badly injured.
"2002 still hurts," he said. "There was a lot of hype over me and Danny Buderus but it fizzled away when we both ended up getting bicep injuries and going off the field.
"Hopefully this week, we?ll both stay injury free and we can perform and see which side gets the victory on the day.
"Me and Danny have a lot of history. We?re good friends but there will be no friendship on the field. He?s a very smart player and he leads the pack around the field very well. It will be nice to see where I?m at, playing against Danny.
"He?s a great player who has captained his state of Origin side. I do look up to him. You respect everybody you play against but, with us being friends off the field, it makes it a little bit more special to play against him."
Buderus, vice-captain of the Australian side, was a Kangaroo tourist in 2001 and 2003 and has been a virtual ever-present for the world champions.
"Keiron Cunningham has always been someone I?ve looked up to," he said. "I always watch his games and he?s in great form. He?s definitely one that not only I?ll have to watch but all the team will have to. I?m looking forward to the game, it?s always tough against Great Britain."
Cunningham, who topped his side?s tackle count against the Kiwis, was singled out by Australia coach Wayne Bennett as "Britain?s best player by a mile".
The St Helens favourite was pleased with his comeback but paid tribute to his front-row partner Fielden, who tore into the Kiwi defence and should prove a handful for the Kangaroos.
"I played with Stuart a few years ago," said Cunningham. "He?s just getting better every year. I?d love to play with him week in, week out, we?d set the world alight. He?s a great front rower and it?s a pleasure to play with him.
"I think our forwards were good and that helped my game a lot. I was a little bit nervous in the build-up, it was almost like a debut for me. I was hoping I could carry this season?s form into the Tri-Series and that?s what I did. Hopefully, I can perform this week as well.
"I?ve not won against New Zealand or Australia. I?ve been close before but never actually pulled it off. To beat Australia would be very special. It would mean a lot to me."
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Thanks to www.superleague.co.uk for this story.