International bragging rights will be up for grabs once again when Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland do battle in the 2016 Four Nations tournament.

The competition will be held in England for the first time since 2011, when the hosts made it all the way through to the Final, before going down 30-8 to Australia in the end.

Under Wayne Bennett, England will certainly be looking to produce a similar result, and go one better from the 2014 Four Nations, when they narrowly missed the final, and build on their 2-1 series win over the Kiwis in their end-of-season tour back in 2015.

Scotland will feature in the Four Nations for the first time, and while they’ll go into the tournament as underdogs, the Bravehearts have a number of quality players in their 24-man squad capable of causing an upset. Scotland qualified for the Four Nations by the narrowest of margins — finishing level on points with France and Ireland, but with a  +29 points differential compared to +26 for France and +21 for Ireland.

Currently ranked ninth in international rugby league, Steve McCormack’s men will no doubt be keen to justify their inclusion, which begins against Australia on October 29.

However, while both England and Scotland are capable of causing an upset — especially given their familiarity to the conditions — the Four Nations tournament is widely expected to come down to the performances of both Australia and New Zealand.

In the 2010 and 2014 Four Nations, it was the Kiwis who triumphed in tight encounters, while the Kangaroos got revenge over their Trans-Tasman rivals in the 2013 World Cup.  In their two Test matches this season, both countries have won one game apiece, but know plenty of improvement is needed if they are to deliver when it counts most.

Kangaroos Coach Mal Meninga has opted for somewhat of a new-look squad — leaving out veterans such as Paul Gallen and Corey Parker — but also retaining several players perhaps under pressure to keep their spots. The likes of Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson and Boyd Cordner all justified their inclusion with good performances in the Trans-Tasman Test last fortnight, with the Kangaroos heading into the tournament off a strong win.

For the Kiwis, life under new Coach David Kidwell didn’t get off to the brightest of starts, with a 26-6 defeat in their first-hit out. With some disappointing last tackle options and issues with ball security, Kidwell will no doubt have his team ready to improve ahead of their opening match against the hosts on October 30. And, given the Kiwis’ ability to step up and produce quality performances in recent international tournaments, it’s hard not to see the number-one ranked team in international football turning it around quickly.

It’s shaping as a fascinating tournament with a number of intriguing storylines to follow, as the Kangaroos look to reclaim the Four Nations trophy from the clutches of the Kiwis. 



TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

October 29, 7:00am AEDT — Four Nations, Australia vs. Scotland, Hull

October 30, 1:30am AEDT — Four Nations, England vs. New Zealand, Huddersfield

November 6, 4:30am AEDT — Four Nations, England vs. Scotland, Coventry

November 6, 7:00am AEDT — Four Nations, Australia vs. New Zealand, Coventry

November 12, 7:00am AEDT — Four Nations, New Zealand vs. Scotland, Workington

November 14, 1:00am AEDT — Four Nations, England vs. Australia, London

November 21, 1:30am AEDT — Four Nations Final, TBC, Liverpool

 

CONFIRMED SQUADS

Australia

Cameron Smith (capt.), Darius Boyd, Shannon Boyd, Boyd Cordner, Cooper Cronk, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Jake Friend, Matt Gillett, Valentine Holmes, Greg Inglis, David Klemmer, James Maloney, Josh Mansour, Trent Merrin, Michael Morgan, Matt Moylan, Justin O’Neill, Matt Scott, Sam Thaiday, Jonathan Thurston, Jake Trbojevic, Aaron Woods.
 

New Zealand

Jesse Bromwich (capt.), Gerard Beale, Adam Blair, Lewis Brown, Greg Eastwood, James Fisher-Harris, David Fusitu’a, Tohu Harris, Shaun Johnson, Jordan Kahu, Solomone Kata, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Thomas Leuluai, Isaac Luke, Te Maire Martin, Manu Ma’u, Jason Nightingale, Kevin Proctor, Jordan Rapana, Joseph Tapine, Jason Taumalolo, Martin Taupau, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
 

England

Sam Burgess (capt.), John Bateman, Kevin Brown, George Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Liam Farrell, Luke Gale, James Graham, Ryan Hall, Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, Jonny Lomax, Jermaine McGillvary, Mark Percival, Stefan Ratchford, Dan Sarginson, Scott Taylor, Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins, Elliot Whitehead, Gareth Widdop, George Williams.
 

Scotland

Danny Addy, Euan Aitken, Ryan Brierly, Sam Brooks, Danny Brough, Tyler Cassel, Lachlan Coote, Luke Douglas, Dale Ferguson, Ben Hellewell, Liam Hood, Ben Kanavagh, Kane Linnett, Ryan Maneely, Frankie Mariano, Billy McConnachie, Kieran Moran, Brett Phillips, Callum Phillips, Sheldon Powe-Hobbs, Matthew Russell, Lewis Tierney, Dave Scott, Adam Walker.



RECENT RESULTS

Australia

2016 Trans-Tasman Test — Australia 26 def. New Zealand 6

2016 ANZAC Test — Australia 16 def. New Zealand 0

2015 ANZAC Test — New Zealand 22 def. Australia 12

2014 Four Nations — New Zealand 22 def. Australia 18

2014 Four Nations — Australia 44 def. Samoa 18
 

New Zealand

2016 Trans-Tasman Test — Australia 26 def. New Zealand 6

2016 ANZAC Test — Australia 16 def. New Zealand 0

2015 Baskerville Shield — England 20 def. New Zealand 14

2015 Baskerville Shield — New Zealand 9 def. England 2

2015 Baskerville Shield — England 26 def. New Zealand 12
 

England

2015 Baskerville Shield — England 20 def. New Zealand 14

2015 Baskerville Shield — New Zealand 9 def. England 2

2015 Baskerville Shield — England 26 def. New Zealand 12

2014 Four Nations — New Zealand 16 def. England 14

2014 Four Nations — Australia 16 def. England 12
 

Scotland

2015 European Cup — France 32 def. Scotland 18

2015 European Cup — Ireland 24 def. Scotland 22

2015 European Cup — Wales 18 def. Scotland 12

2014 European Cup — France 38 def. Scotland 22

2014 European Cup — Scotland 25 def. Ireland 4



KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Australia — Darius Boyd, Fullback

In a competition filled with star fullbacks, Darius Boyd has emerged as the premier No.1 in Australia and only further consolidated his spot at the back for the Kangaroos with an impressive showing in his side’s recent 26-6 win over the Kiwis. One of the fittest players in the league, the Broncos’ fullback has an incredible 15 tries in 19 appearances since his debut for the Kangaroos back in 2008. Perhaps more incredible, however, is the fact that Boyd is undefeated in every single one of the games. An experienced campaigner, look for the 29-year-old to feature heavily on both sides of the ruck as he combines with Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk throughout the tournament.

 

New Zealand — Shaun Johnson, Halfback

When Warriors playmaker Shaun Johnson is on his game, the Kiwis are on their game. In the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Johnson was the tournament top points-scorer. In the 2014 Four Nations, Johnson was Man of the Match in the final. As such, it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that Johnson (who has scored eight tries in 15 games for the Kiwis) will be at the heart of David Kidwell’s attack in this year’s tournament. New Zealand’s last tackle options against Australia in their Trans-Tasman Test in October weren’t as good as they could have been, but if the Kiwis can improve that come tournament time, look for the number one ranked team in international football to shine once again.

 

England — Kallum Watkins, Centre

A regular in the England team since 2012, look for Leeds Rhinos centre Kallum Watkins to again continue his good form at an international level for England, where has scored nine tries in 16 games. In the 2014 Four Nations, Watkins scored two tries in three games, and also scored in his most recent game against Australia. Ryan Hall will no doubt attract much of the focus in terms of England’s backs, and rightly so, but don’t be surprised to see Watkins look to further cement the No.3 spot as his own this year.

 

Scotland — Lachlan Coote, Fullback

A fullback for the Cowboys, it still remains to be seen whether Lachlan Coote will play at the back or in the halves for the Bravehearts, but what is clear is that the 26-year-old will be at the heart at whatever Scotland create in attack. Making his international debut at the Four Nations, Coote’s combination with Club teammate Kane Linnett on the edge will be interesting to see, as will whether Coote can find the try-line in his debut — just like he did on his representative debut for the City Origin team back in 2010.

 

FIVE FINAL FACTS

1.   By the time they take on Australia in their opening game on October 29, over two years will have passed since Scotland last won an competitive international fixture. Their last win was against Ireland, 25-4, in the 2014 European Cup on October 25. Since then, the Bravehearts have lost their last four competitive international fixtures.

2.  England have not beaten Australia in a competitive fixture since the 1995 World Cup, where they won 20-16 in the group stage. Australia would win the Final, 16-8, however.

3.   Shaun Johnson requires just 34 more points to pass Matthew Ridge as New Zealand’s all-time top points-scorer. Johnson has 134 points (8 tries, 51 goals) in 16 Tests for the Kiwis, while Ridge achieved his 168 points (6 tries, 71 goals, 2 field goals) in 25 Tests.

4.   Darius Boyd has never lost an international fixture for Australia (19 from 19).

5.   No player in the current Kangaroos squad has kicked a field goal for Australia.

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