Rugby League World Cup: 'England deserve final spot, it is great for the sport'

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Highlights: England reach final despite late Tonga comeback
Rugby League World Cup final: Australia v England
Date: Saturday, 2 December Kick-off: 09:00 GMT
Coverage: Watch live coverage and highlights on BBC One, Connected TV, online & the BBC Sport app; live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

It is great for rugby league that the two best teams at the World Cup have reached the final.

I am really looking forward to a great match between Australia and England in Brisbane next week.

It's really important for our game and for Super League to have everybody able to watch England in the final - anything less than that would have been disappointing.

And they deserve to be there. For the majority of the semi-final against Tonga they led, built up a 20-0 advantage and really played well, despite the Pacific Islanders fighting back to make it 20-18 in the final seven minutes.

England should not be too hard on themselves about Tonga's three late tries. Tonga have got that ability in them, and England largely nullified them.

They've been waiting a long time for a World Cup final - 22 years - and the fact they're in one will be a great boost for rugby league.

How can England beat Australia?

Australia
Australia have reached a 14th consecutive final

England have got to play well for 80 minutes. For 70-something minutes they stuck it to Tonga, but they have got to put an 80-minute performance in against Australia.

They need to improve their kicking game a bit. It was a little bit off against Tonga, but they are not far off.

England will definitely be Australia's toughest test so far. I thought that before the tournament started, too.

England haven't got a great history against the Kangaroos, the last time they beat them was as part of a Great Britain side in Sydney in 2006.

But as each year goes by there are more of the England squad playing against Australian players week in, week out in the NRL.

Then you have the best of the Super League players here too, so England as a team have got a really good mix and they have enough to really take it to Australia next week.

We speak about captain Sean O'Loughlin a lot - his ability to carry the ball as well as pass. He is an outstanding player and England will hope he is fit for the final after coming off against Tonga with a quad strain.

Right across the field, England have played well. Winger Jermaine McGillvary has been outstanding, scoring seven tries so far, and there have been a number of good performers.

England have got the players in their team to really trouble Australia, so it's shaping up to be a great final.

'England will be raring to go'

Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett has had two spells in charge of Australia, taking over as England head coach in 2016

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said the finish to that semi-final might have taken too much out of England, but I think they can go again.

The players are used to playing every single week. It definitely would take something out of you if you had to play in the next few days, but they have got a week to recover and they will be raring to go.

This is what Wayne Bennett is here to do as head coach. He will have been a key figure in not letting the players get overawed by the occasion of having 30,000 fans at the semi-final and the majority of them not cheering for England.

That's his experience as a coach, so he wouldn't be fazed by that and he won't be fazed by next week's final either. He will have England ready to go.

'Scramble defence will be key'

England
Tonga's Andrew Fifita had a try ruled out in the final seconds of the semi-final

We said from the word go that England couldn't go into their shells in the semi-final against Tonga, and they were excellent defensively.

Tonga had a number of opportunities they could have converted, but England kept turning up and made it really difficult for them.

Their scramble defence won them the game - they could easily have conceded several tries in the first half if they hadn't scrambled well.

When you're playing against a team with that kind of momentum, like Tonga had in the final seven minutes, you can feel helpless. You just have to scramble.

And their scramble defence has been outstanding all tournament. We have been talking about England making errors, but that is one thing that has stood out.

The defence has been a real strength to England's game and it's going to have to be again next week.

When you get to the final, you have got to be good with your defence and England have shown they can do that.

But so have Australia. They have only conceded three tries the whole World Cup, one of those in the semi-final when they thrashed Fiji 54-6, so it's going to be a really tough task for England, but I am sure they are up for it.

'Tonga great for rugby league'

Tonga
Tonga's players were treated like heroes in Auckland after their semi-final exit to England

Tonga have been absolutely brilliant, the way they have played at this World Cup and how their fans have got on board - selling a stadium out in New Zealand, 25,000 Tongans at the game.

It's great for our World Cup and our game that we're talking about different sides.

England handled that crowd really well, as I thought they would. We speak about games in Super League being so noisy anyway, so they are used to that.

But Tonga have handled it really well right throughout the World Cup. They have played big games against Samoa and New Zealand and beaten them both.

The emotion can get the better of you when those occasions arise, so you have to give both teams credit that they put in a really good performance and the semi-final deserved a great finish.

It is what our game of rugby league can produce, in particular when Tonga are involved.

They always had it in them, I wasn't sure if it was going to happen, or when, but in the end it was right at the death and they nearly got away with it. It was a very exciting finish.

I have coached in a few games like that. Unfortunately for us at St Helens, just recently. We lost at Castleford in similar fashion in our semi-final this year, going down 23-22 in extra time.

It's what our sport can do.

Justin Holbrook was talking to BBC Sport's Alex Bysouth.

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