JOHN BATEMAN has backed England colleague Kevin Brown to produce the high-class performance required after the former Huddersfield Giants captain earned a shock recall in Sunday’s crucial Ladbrokes Four Nations game against world champions Australia.
The Widnes Vikings stand-off has not yet featured in the competition and, indeed, his only international outing since 2010 was a brief second-half appearance during the warm-up game against France three weeks ago.
However, England coach Wayne Bennett is starting with the 32-year-old on Sunday as he looks for the creativity needed to beat their fierce rivals for the first time since 1995.
After Scotland’s stunning performance to secure an 18-18 draw with New Zealand on Friday night, England must now avoid defeat against Australia to ensure they reach next weekend’s final.
Bateman, a 23-year-old Yorkshireman, has every faith in Brown to steer the side around.
“He can definitely do that,” the Wigan forward told The Yorkshire Post. “I’ve played against Browny a few times now and seen just what he can do.
“Having trained alongside him I’ve realised that even more. He’ll definitely be up to it.
“We’re all looking forward to this match and know just how important it is.”
Bateman, who left hometown Bradford Bulls for Wigan three years ago, is just the sort of rugged, no-nonsense operator England need for the significant challenge that lies ahead.
He should be all the more ready for the rigorous prospect given he was rested last week.
“Me and Wayne had a chat last week and he wanted to give Faz some game time to see how he goes and that’s part and parcel of being part of a squad like this,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to hopefully being back in; you want to play against the top teams and we know Australia are.
“But we’ve definitely got the players that can do the job.
“Everyone believes that; people talk about last week, but it happened and we still got the job done.
“We know we can improve and have to. For me, I’ve never played Australia before – only the Kiwis – but this is why you want to play rugby league and, growing up in Bradford, this is what I thought about.
“I just want to make sure I’m better than my opposite number.
“Everyone always says the Aussies are a lot better than the rest, but I don’t see that; we’ve got the talent to give them something to think about for sure.”
Wales international Tyson Frizell, meanwhile, has been recalled for Australia.
The St George Illawarra second rower, who played for Wales in the 2013 World Cup, made his first start for the Kangaroos in their opening 54-12 win over Scotland, but was left out of the team that played New Zealand last Saturday.
Frizell will be on the bench while, as expected, scrum-half Cooper Cronk and centre Josh Dugan are recalled to the starting line-up after being rested for the 14-8 win over the Kiwis.
Dugan takes over from Justin O’Neill, while Cronk displaces Michael Morgan, who returns to his customary bench utility role.
Forward Sam Thaiday is also named on the bench despite picking up a knee injury against New Zealand and Shannon Boyd is standing by to take his place.
Thaiday insists the Kangaroos are taking nothing for granted against England and warns his side will need to improve on their performance in Coventry.
“There’s probably a few things from Saturday we need to fix up,” he said. “We lacked a bit of polish at the end of a few different things. There’s always room for improvement.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge. England have got some very big forwards and that’s where a lot of these games are being won. It’s a big challenge against a big forward pack.”
Morgan, who was in the North Queensland team that beat Leeds in the World Club Challenge at the start of the year, is also expecting the biggest threat to come from England’s forwards led by Sam Burgess.
“They’re a big side so my guess would be they’ll try and come at us through the middle using their size,” he said.
“They have a good set of halves and some big outside backs that can finish their sets really well and get their sets started, so it’ll definitely be a challenge.”
Morgan also expects his fellow countryman Bennett to give the England team a boost.
“I think so, he’ll give their side a lot of confidence,” he said. “I guess he’s the type of coach that players enjoy playing for, so no doubt he’ll have them motivated and wanting to do well.”