Former Great Britain winger Martin Offiah believes Australia are “there for the taking” as England prepare to deliver the knockout punch in the Four Nations Series.
The Kangaroos are on the brink of failing to reach the final of a major international tournament for the first time since 1954 following their surprise 30-12 defeat by New Zealand in Brisbane and Offiah says England will go into Sunday’s crunch clash in Melbourne full of confidence following their hard-fought 32-26 win over Samoa.
England are looking to emulate the Great Britain team of 1992 that beat the Australians in the Victorian capital and Offiah, who scored the try that wrapped up a 33-10 victory at Melbourne’s Princes Park, is excited by their prospects.
“I think if anything England will go into this game on a higher note than we went into that game,” said Offiah, the former Widnes and Wigan flier who won 33 caps from 1988-94.
“We had lost the first Test and, although we had played well in Sydney, no one would have predicted that we would have beaten the Australians by a record score.
“But Steve McNamara’s team will go into Sunday’s game with a bit more confidence I believe. I thought they were pretty good against Samoa.”
McNamara, who was a player on that 1992 Lions tour, is still hoping to have skipper Sean O’Loughlin back for Sunday’s match despite naming a team without him and Offiah says his availability would add to England’s strength.
“I was very impressed by the big English pack on Saturday,” Offiah said. “I thought James Graham led from the front as he always does and the Burgess brothers had fantastic games and showed there is life after Sam Burgess.
“Michael Shenton has resurrected his Super League and international career after things didn’t go well for him at St Helens. I thought he played well and I thought the two hookers were impressive but it’s probably easy to play well when you’ve got such a big pack to lead you around the field.”
By their own admission, England will need to improve defensively from their opening game and Offiah would also like to see more attacking flair from their outside backs.
“I’d like to see a bit more of our back three, that’s where we’ve been strong in recent years, with the likes of Josh Charnley, Ryan Hall and Sam Tomkins,” Offiah said. “They call Ryan Hall the world’s best winger but he’s turning into the world’s biggest winger at the moment. I wouldn’t like to see him get any bigger than he actually is now. If he gets the ball close to the line, he’s going to be pretty hard to stop.”
Australia, forced to field five debutants against the Kiwis, will have to make further changes following the injury to half-back Daly Cherry-Evans and Offiah believes they are under mounting pressure to avoid another defeat.
“They lost quite handsomely to New Zealand, who played fantastically well,” he said. “Admittedly, there were about 11 changes from the team that won the Anzac Test so they’re doing it a little bit tough.
“This Australian team are there for the taking. I don’t know the last time they last lost back-to-back Test matches against different nations but I think the last time they failed to appear in a final was back in the fifties so there is a lot of pressure on Australia. I’m sure that the press are making them well aware of the fact they need to beat England.”