The Australian squad:
Brad Fittler (captain)
|Group 1 news
An 82-0 defeat of Papua New Guinea in a pre-Lincoln World Cup warm-up indicates just why many bookmakers are refusing to take any further bets on the cup holders clinching the title again. Though the Kangaroos have had little activity since their domestic season ended, it would appear that last season's in-form players like vice-captain Gordon Tallis (scorer of four tries against the Kumuls) will again prove too good for the other 15 competing nations.
Coach Chris Anderson has a wealth of talent at his disposal and he is able to ignore the claims of Test stars Jason Hetherington, Matthew Johns and David Furner, who have opted to join Superleague in Britain next year. His most difficult choice could well be whether to select midfield general Brett Kimmorley or Newcastle Knights' Andrew Johns at scrum half - a selection issue which amply illustrates the depth of his squad.
In Sydney City Roosters' 28-year-old loose forward Brad Fittler, Anderson possesses one of the world's greatest players, a potential match winner with his defence-splitting passes and judicious kicking. If Fittler is allowed to dominate the midfield then, in fullback Darren Lockyer and powerful wing Wendell Sailor, Australia have two exciting runners who can attack from deep within their own half and carve openings out of even the tightest of defences.
With no apparent weaknesses in attack or defence it is difficult to see any nation stopping Australia from retaining the trophy unless they seriously underestimate England in their opening encounter at Twickenham.