25th October 2011, 04:42
England and Wales ready for kick-off
England captain Jamie Peacock insists his side will not be...
England captain Jamie Peacock insists his side will not be underestimating Wales in their opening Gillette Four Nations game at Leigh on Saturday.
Half of the 24-strong Welsh squad, who upset France in the 2010 European Cup to earn their promotion to the top tier of international rugby league, are semi-professionals and six of them have paid their way from Australia to represent their country on the big stage.
But Peacock says England are bracing themselves for a passionate performance from Iestyn Harris' side, who warmed up for their debut with a confident 30-6 win over Ireland in Neath on Saturday.
"I'm sure Iestyn will have them playing well," Peacock said at the tournament launch at Elland Road, venue for the November 19 final.
"They've got some crafty players with the likes of Lee Briers and they will be pretty fired up.
"They will present a different challenge to that of the Aussies and Kiwis, but a difficult one nevertheless. I'm sure they will want to raise their game."
Wales are the 100-1 outsiders and Harris was careful at yesterday's launch not to make any bold predictions about his team's prospects.
"It's important we don't shout from the rooftops what we want to achieve," he said.
"The expectations are low externally but we've got to make sure they're high from within our group.
"There is some experience in our squad but most of them are young and enthusiastic and they want to improve. They want to play at the highest level they can and this competition allows them to prove they can."
Wales, who are setting up camp in Wrexham ahead of Saturday's opening game against England at Leigh Sports Village, will welcome back skipper Lee Briers after he sat out their 30-6 win over Ireland in Neath.
"Obviously Lee's had a tough season and his body has been a little bit tired," explained Harris.
"I thought it was important for him to have some down time before he came in with the squad. He only had four days training with the full squad and he needed bit of physical work before he had a game."
Wales qualified for a first appearance in the Four Nations after gaining a shock win over France in last year's European Cup and Harris admits their elevation to the top tier of international rugby league has come earlier than expected.
"We're not going to shout from the rooftops about what our goals are," Harris said.
"It's a very strong competition. We're against the three best teams in world rugby league. We've got some aims for what we want to achieve in this tournament but we'll keep them to ourselves.
"Some great strides have been made in Wales over the last six or seven years. There are lots and lots of young men playing rugby league.
"We've around 150 in the system, coming through, so we will have a lot to choose from over the next three or five years.
"We're probably ahead of schedule being in this tournament but it's something everybody is excited about and we'll give it our best dig."
McNamara, who went to watch the game in Neath just hours after flying back from France, said: "It was good to see them in action.
"I was very much taken aback by the Welsh passion. Iestyn has got a group together who are very keen on doing well for Wales."