2013 World Cup: Darren Lockyer believes England can challenge

By Elizabeth HudsonBBC Sport
Youth key to England future - Lockyer

Australian great Darren Lockyer believes England can build on their performances in their Autumn International series and challenge for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

England take on France again in Sunday's final at Salford fresh from beating them 44-6 last weekend.

But Lockyer believes there is more to come from Steve McNamara's side.

"England's strength in depth is improving and this series will have helped them," he said.

"Bringing the likes of Zac Hardaker, Josh Charnley and Kallum Watkins into the side will be a real positive for Steve.

"Even though club football is great experience, I still think the experience of playing with other international players and wearing your country's colours helps you to ease into the whole environment. It doesn't matter if you win by four or 40, it can only be a confidence boost for those players moving forward into World Cup year.

"I thought England showed some good signs against France last weekend but they could execute a lot better and I think that is what they have to do this weekend.

"France and Wales have been disappointing, but you can only play what is in front of you.

"If England have all of their top-line players fit and healthy this time next year and have some of their NRL-based players back in, they will be serious contenders for the World Cup."

Lockyer retired last year having won a host of honours in the game, including the 2000 World Cup and four NRL titles with the Brisbane Broncos.

He has defended England's decision to avoid the bigger sides in their last major tournament before the World Cup with both Australia and New Zealand ending their international campaigns after their meeting in Townsville on 12 Octoberexternal-link.

"That was England's decision but from Australia's perspective, in the last 11 years, they have travelled to play England or Great Britain seven times and on top of the domestic competition and State of Origin, there is an issue of player burn-out," he said.

"Having spoken to the Australian players, they are happy to have the rest and build for next year because there are a lot of physical and mental demands on the players, especially those involved in State of Origin, and it also gives them a chance to deal with niggling injuries.

"For them, the rest is good but I can see that England will want to have some tougher football as they prepare for the World Cup."