As Saturday morning's World Cup final approaches, no one has given England a chance of beating the holders on their own patch and claiming the Paul Barriere Trophy for the first time since 1972. An expectant, sell-out crowd in Brisbane awaits with anticipation, convinced that Australia will make it thirteen wins in a row against their ancient foe. Most England fans are guilty of having a lack of faith in the England players which is unsurprising when considering that Australia has not yet lost a game under head coach Mal Meninga. But, it is a final and to quote the well-known phrase "anything can happen in a final", is an England victory actually unthinkable?

Recent form

There is no doubt whatsoever that Australia goes into the final in breathtaking form; the Kangaroos have swept aside all competitors in emphatic fashion. Indeed, Australia has notched up a quite an unbelievable points difference so far in the competition, scoring a mighty 204 points and conceding just 16. England, on the other hand, has appeared sluggish and disjointed up until now. Having racked up just 125 points whilst conceding 58, the Three Lions have been nowhere near the heights that Australia has hit in recent weeks.

The Aussies have been a class above from the start; an 18-4 opening round victory over England was added to with a 52-6 thrashing of France and a 34-0 hammering of minnows Lebanon to send the hosts easily through Group A as winners and set up a quarter-final tie with Samoa.

Samoa, one of the tournament's biggest let-downs, failed to register a point as Australia cruised to a 46-0 win. Next came Fiji; after sporting an unbeaten record in Group D and beating New Zealand for the first time ever in the quarter-finals, the Bati proved no match for Australia. A 54-6 annihilation sparked considerable worry amongst England fans and has since raised the question: are Australia in fact unbeatable?

England, meanwhile, has done just enough to progress to the final.

The loss to Australia was followed up by less-than-convincing victories over Lebanon and France - 29-10 and 36-6 respectively. England was, arguably, most impressive in their 36-6 quarter-final triumph against surprise package PNG despite a hefty error count. A semi-final clash against Tonga was next and, although England was on top for the majority of the game - even boasting a 0-20 lead going into the final seven minutes - they proceeded to the final by the skin of their teeth, repelling a stirring Tongan fightback to win 18-20.

It was a win that has since caused much debate and controversy surrounding the "try that never was".

This is England's problem; they have not yet played for the full eighty minutes. They have been outstanding in patches yet abysmal in others. Against Australia, England was the better side in the second half yet could not break down the steely Aussie defence. France and Lebanon were simply blown away in two first-half demonstrations of class where England held leads of 26-6 and 22-6 respectively, whilst PNG never really looked like causing an upset in the quarter-finals. And, although Tonga nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the semi, England had led the whole match and were 0-20 up by the 73rd minute.

If England can somehow merge these bright patches from these five games into a full, eighty-minute performance, England has the quality to cause Australia a number of problems.

Cut out the errors

The only thing that has been consistent about England's performances so far has been their inconsistency. The Three Lions have been wasteful and far too error-prone. Against France, England made 13 errors and missed 20 tackles and, even though England made light work of PNG, they still made a gargantuan 20 errors and had a completion rate of just 56%. These statistics need to be improved upon if England is going to have any chance against a clinical Aussie side whose strike force is second to none in the world.

England also has a tendency to either overplay or not play enough. Canberra hooker, Josh Hodgson, has often been criticised for trying to do too much, though his severe knee injury means he will be absent from Saturday's final. Meanwhile, others such as John Bateman are guilty of not using the ball in prime position; Bateman's winger, Ryan Hall, for example, has often found himself in a great position only to be ignored by the Wigan man. But, this is because Bateman is not a centre - a reality which head coach Wayne Bennett just can't seem to get his head around. It sounds obvious, but, England needs to play when the opportunity is staring them in the face and shut up shop when things appear tight.

Team news

Both sides have named their 17-man squads for the final with Australia unchanged from the side that demolished Fiji. After scoring just once in the opening three games, winger Valentine Holmes is out to extend his remarkable try-scoring record of 11 in two games. And, after breaking his own record for tries (five) in one match with his six against Fiji, Holmes also surpassed fellow Australian Wendell Sailor's record for tries at one World Cup which had previously stood at 10 and which was set back in 2000 - Holmes now has 12 to his name.

Holmes is just one amongst the irrepressible Aussie back-line. This is a back-line which includes veteran full-back Billy Slater - who scored twice against Fiji to take his tally at World Cups to 16, making him the competition's all-time leading try scorer, the athletic Josh Dugan, the powerful Will Chambers and the impressive Dane Gagai.

And, with the Melbourne Storm spine of Slater, half-back Cooper Cronk and hooker, Cameron Smith, all in good form whilst the Aussie forwards - led by giants Aaron Woods and David Klemmer - lay the platform for their control, England need to be on their mettle for the full eighty minutes - something which has so far eluded them.

Wayne Bennett, meanwhile, with Josh Hodgson ruled out through injury, has brought James Roby into the first team with veteran back-rower Chris Heighington drafted onto the bench. Whilst Hodgson's injury is gutting, it gives Roby the chance to get England on the front foot from the very beginning. Roby's dynamic running game has the potential to cause havoc for Australia around the ruck whilst his quick and efficient distribution from dummy half can give halves Kevin Brown and Luke Gale the service that they will need in order to force Australia onto the back foot.

Bennett perseveres yet again with John Bateman in the centres; he is a classy and aggressive player - just what England needs - yet he is a forward all day long. And, with centre Mark Percival taken to the World Cup for what looks like a holiday, fans just can't understand why Bennett continues to play Bateman out of position with a superb centre sat on the sidelines. Bennett's love-in with Heighington is also baffling; a 35-year-old, "over-the-hill" Aussie is taking the place of either Hull FC's Scott Taylor or Castleford Tigers' Mike McMeeken. Both impressed throughout 2017 and both deserve a chance to play for their country at the highest level possible.

Heighinton, in contrast, was born in Australia, has an Australian accent and only qualifies to play for England through his father.

England fans wouldn't mind his inclusion as much if he actually brought something to the team, yet, he offers absolutely nothing and his impact off the bench is laughable. McMeeken and Taylor are, on the other hand, brilliant impact players. Both eat up the yards and attract multiple defenders, creating the space for the backline. With Walmsley and Taylor coming off the bench, England could take the game to Australia; with Heighington running on, the Aussies will be rubbing their hands.

Arrogant Australia

This will be Australia's 14th successive final and their fans are anticipating their eleventh title; Australia have sold out just one stadium in their five games so far and that was only in the near-14,000 capacity stadium in Darwin.

Even at Australia's semi-final, there were still 30,000 empty seats inside Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Aussies don't care about the build-up, all they care about is watching their side lift the World Cup once more which explains why Saturday mornings final is already a sell-out. Australia's arrogance is phenomenal and, although they have good reason to be arrogant with the way they are sweeping teams aside, England has a fantastic opportunity to spoil the party. Imagine Australia's oldest rivals beating them on home soil and snatching, what Aussies believe is rightfully theirs, the World Cup from under Australia's noses and to lift the trophy for the first time since 1972; it would be one of the greatest moments in Rugby League history.

Now Bennett has chosen his team, England fans can moan all they like (me included), but it will not change the side. From now until Saturday morning, England fans need to get behind the team and hope that the slight chink in Australia's armour that England found in the second-half of their opening game, will turn into a full-blown crack.