England will be inspired by one of their nation’s most famous sporting triumphs when they look to end Australia’s Four Nations campaign in Melbourne.
Their most courageous rugby league victory – earned by nine die-hard warriors 100 years ago – will inspire England as they aim to end Australia’s Four Nations title defence on Sunday.
In a concerning sign for a depleted Kangaroos outfit teetering on the brink, England have no shortage of emotion to end a 19-year drought against the world champions.
As well as expecting inspirational skipper Sean O’Loughlin to return at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, the English will draw on one of their nation’s most famous triumphs – the 1914 Rorke’s Drift Test.
Steve McNamara’s men will wear a replica red and white hooped jersey to commemorate the backs-to-the-wall 14-6 third Test win at the SCG that earned a series victory with just nine men.
The Australian press were so impressed by the bravery of the Lions – who had four players injured during the match, England’s third in seven days – they compared it to the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, the British military’s 1879 rearguard against the Zulus in South Africa.
England will have the names of all 13 players from that game written on the one-off jerseys.
“None of us will need extra incentive on Sunday but the chance to pull on the Rorke’s Drift jersey is one the whole squad is longing to grab with both hands,” O’Loughlin said.
“It’s massive, a massive proud moment for everyone.
“This game has got history behind it so it adds to it a little bit and we do want to do ourselves proud.”
Not since the 1995 World Cup opener at Wembley, when the hosts scored a shock 20-16 win, have England upset Australia.
But O’Loughlin and star fullback Sam Tomkins both said the tourists had good reason to believe they can end a nine-Test rut against the Kangaroos.
The unavailability of more than half of Tim Sheens’ first-choice players had a major role in the 30-12 loss to New Zealand on Saturday night, while the new-look team has been further hampered by an injury to Daly Cherry-Evans and a virus picked up by Greg Inglis.
Tomkins indicated the Kiwis’ win had given England, who overcame a limited preparation to beat Samoa 32-26, more belief.
And O’Loughlin, who is confident of overcoming a quad strain to return at lock, felt Australia no longer held a psychological edge over his team.
“The fact that we have a few more NRL boys in the side now it gives us a bit more experience playing against these guys and that helps,” he said.
But Tomkins believed O’Loughlin’s likely inclusion would add most grief for the Kangaroos.
“It will be massive for us,” the Warriors fullback said. “He’s our best player, he’s our captain.
“Lockers is a player who you probably only really appreciate what he does once you’ve played alongside him.”
England also expect rookie halfback Matty Smith (foot) and super-sub Darryl Clark (back) to play.