Matty Smith has praised half-back partner Gareth Widdup for assisting his development in international rugby as England look to claim the prized scalp of Australia tomorrow morning.
Home coach Tim Sheens accepts all the pressure is on his injury-decimated Australia side after their first defeat in four years left them vulnerable to an early exit from the Four Nations Series.
England opened with a rusty 32-26 win over Samoa last Saturday, and Smith – who made his Test debut in that game – is confident there is much more to comeboth from the team as a whole and from his new half-back partnership with Halifax-born Widdop, who will be back on familiar territory after starting his professional career at Melbourne Storm.
“Gaz is a great player,” said Smith. “I’ve watched him for a few years now. He’s my roomy on tour and I think it was a great move by the coaching staff to put me in with him.
“You get to know each other a little bit and I’ve been spending a lot of time with Gaz, drinking a few coffees and hanging around with him. That all helps when you go into the games to get a good partnership going.
“It’s pretty new for me obviously being in this environment. I’m enjoying playing with him and hopefully we can have a good last couple of sessions and go into Australia really confident that we can do a job.
“It was nerve-wracking for me putting on an England shirt for the first time but it was great to get off to a winning start.
“I thought as a team we probably could have played a bit better but we got the job done, we got the two points, and we’ll be better this week against a tough Australian side.”
England are waiting on the fitness of newly-appointed captain Sean O’Loughlin, who was in the Great Britain team that won in Sydney in 2006, while Australia – already shorn of a dozen established internationals – still have a question mark over half-back Daly Cherry-Evans, while Sheens himself has been quarantined after coming down with flu-like symptoms.
If McNamara can restore the inspirational O’Loughlin to an already impressive-looking pack, it will significantly improve England’s chances of reaching a third Four Nations final, their first in the southern hemisphere.
Smith added: “We’re looking forward to tomorrow. It’s looking really good.
“There’s no bigger opportunity to beat the Aussies in their own backyard.
“It’s going to be a great day and hopefully we can perform and do everyone proud.”