England Rugby League fans are used to disappointment; four years ago in the 2013 World Cup, English hearts were broken as New Zealand half-back Shaun Johnson waltzed through the tired English defence with virtually seconds on the clock. And, just a year ago, England crashed out of the Four Nations with losses to New Zealand and Australia. In fact, one has to wind the clock back to 1972 to find the last time that England, or Great Britain, last won the World Cup.

Consistently disappointing

Therefore, when England took to the field against antipodean rivals and co-hosts Australia last Friday morning in Melbourne, few expected a successful result against a team that England had failed to beat in their last 11 outings.

But this did not stop the long-suffering fans from hoping that just maybe their team could pull something out of the bag.

This hope turned into more than just a pipedream as the visitors stormed into a 4-0 lead as powerful winger Jermaine McGillvary - who was a stand-out performer - collected Gareth Widdop's floated pass to finish in the corner in the fourth minute. Then, however, it was all Australia.

The English defence was superb for more than 20 minutes before second-rower Matt Gillett burst through a gaping hole to register the host's first points of the night.

Then, as Billy Slater barged his way over just six minutes later, England fans were beginning to think "here we go again", especially as the mighty figure of Sam Burgess had limped off midway through the half.

The half-time hooter came just at the right time for England; seemingly rejuvenated after the break and only 10-4 down, the visitors upped their game and grasped hold of the momentum which had, for nearly all of the opening forty minutes, drifted away from them.

The introduction of James Roby provided the impetus for England to launch wave after wave of attack at the Kangaroo's line, only to be thwarted by last-ditch tackles or errors.

Australian hoodoo continues

Then, in the 76th minute, a bizarre call by referee Matt Cecchin - the man in the middle despite being an Aussie - on Elliott Whitehead enabled Australian veteran Cameron Smith to slot over a penalty goal which made it a two-score game at 12-4.

The final nail in the coffin was dealt with just a minute remaining as Widdop's speculative kick was scooped up by centre Josh Dugan who raced 80 metres to finally settle the pulsating encounter.

In yet another major tournament, it was yet another England defeat to Australia. The formbook remains well and truly intact.

Positives to take

There were some positives to take from the game, however. England was firmly on top in the second half and took the game to the hosts with Roby's speed from acting half causing all sorts of problems.

Luke Gale - the reigning Man of Steel - gradually grew into the match and delivered numerous attacking kicks that pinned the Aussies in their own 20-metre area or earned a repeat set.

Wingers Jermaine McGillvary and Ryan Hall both justified their inclusion with strong games, especially the former whose ball-carrying was mightily impressive while his defensive work saved at least two tries. Even full-back Jonny Lomax - selected due to the notorious absence of Zak Hardaker - although he made a few errors in defence, provided some nice attacking touches.

But the England performance in the second half was how they should have started the first; to play the Aussies at their own game - "five drives and a kick" - was destined to fail.

The power of David Klemmer and Aaron Woods, for example, was overwhelming and the English forwards could simply not match them up the middle. When England started moving the ball around they created doubt in Australia's defensive line; unsurprisingly, this is where England had the most joy. This expansive and inventive play - much of it "off-the-cuff" - must be replicated further down the line when, inevitably, they will come into contact with the ANZAC nations in a knockout situation.

England still needs to get out of their group, however, and Lebanon - buoyant after their maiden World Cup victory over France - are England's next opponents. Perhaps the result seems a formality, but, with live-wire youngster Mitchell Moses at the helm, the Cedars will prove a trickier customer than most expect.

Name supercedes form

Before it is too late, head coach, Wayne Bennett, needs to lose the "players picked on name" idea if England is going to end their Australian and World Cup hoodoo. Too many in the England team, such as 35-year old Aussie Chris Heighington and injury-plagued Sean O'Loughlin, are at the World Cup purely for one last swansong or because of their reputation despite having distinctly average seasons.

And, Bennett's perseverance with the "square peg in the round hole" situation of John Bateman in the centres instead of the world-class Mark Percival, also needs addressing.

Bateman is a classy player in the second row, while Percival is a quality centre. Please Bennett, just play them in their natural positions.

Spirited and determined

Furthermore, those sat on the sidelines that have yet to play a part - like Hull FC's Scott Taylor and Castleford Tiger's Mike McMeeken, who both played key roles in their clubs' success in 2017 - need a chance. If English hopes of success are to turn into reality, Bennett needs to be a little more creative with his team choice and tactics.

All hope is not lost, however.

The spirit is deep within the England camp - as epitomised with prop James Graham's sprint back to try to stop Dugan's score - and, determined to right the wrongs of last Friday morning, the England players know where they went wrong and how to rectify it. But, they only have two more group games to get it right before the real 'business' begins. And, England won't have it all their own way even if (probably when) they break out of their group. Tonga, Ireland, and Papua New Guinea - urged on by their vociferous following - all impressed in the inaugural round of fixtures, and all have the ability to reach the finals stages. England needs to improve, but they are not in a disastrous position by any means.