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'Rookie' coaches face Four Nations battle

AAP logoAAP 28/10/2016 James MacSmith

England's supercoach and New Zealand's super green rookie go head-to-head in the Four Nations opening weekend, in a match that could decide Australia's finals opponent.

Meanwhile the Kangaroos are afforded an early tournament warm-up against minnows Scotland as new coach Mal Meninga searches for his best 17.

The three coaches of the major nations, England's Wayne Bennett, New Zealand's David Kidwell and Meninga have just four games experience heading up their current sides between them.

Of course seven-time NRL premiership winning mentor Bennett is one of rugby league's greatest and most experienced clipboard holders. Meninga meanwhile led Queensland to an unprecedented eight successive State of Origin titles.

Whereas Kidwell, who has plenty of experience as an NRL assistant but none as a head coach, admitted to some rookie errors in his first match in charge of the Kiwis in their 26-6 loss to Australia in Perth two weeks ago.

Australia are warm favourites to reclaim their Four Nations crown they surrendered to the Kiwis in Wellington in 2014. If they do go undefeated through the tournament, they will probably meet the winner of Sunday's round one clash between New Zealand and England in Huddersfield.

England have never won the Four Nations, or its predecessor the Tri Nations, a tournament which began in 1999.

England are traditionally harder to beat at home and lost the 2011 final to Australia at Leeds.

But Bennett's knows World No.1 New Zealand are a much more hardened team since then.

"They're a talented rugby league nation who know how to play the game and use the ball," Bennett said.

"Playing in intense games like these is something they are used to and is something we need to match and work hard if we want to get the result."

Kidwell was widely criticised for his underuse of Dally M winner Jason Taumalolo in Perth and the former Kiwis international said he had taken some "harsh" lessons from that loss. Despite a number of below-par efforts from Kiwis players in that game, Kidwell has stuck with the same 17.

"In Perth, a lot of our guys hadn't played for a long period of time," Kidwell said.

"The result wasn't what we wanted but all the players were better off for the run and we will look to build from that."

Sam Burgess' return to the England side for the first time since his defection to rugby union could be key.

Burgess missed last week's big win over France due to suspension.

"Sam's ready to pull on the England rugby league shirt," Bennett said.

"It's been a few years since he played over here and I'm sure the sell-out crowd at Huddersfield will be keen to see him out there."

A Kangaroos side boasting five debutants in Matt Moylan, Justin O'Neill, James Maloney, Jake Trbojevic and Jake Friend is expected to make light work of Scotland in Hull on Saturday.

The match is a genuine selection trial for the bigger games ahead.

"I do have an idea of what my best possible squad would be but all players know they can break into the top team with a strong performance," Meninga said.

NRL players Euan Aitken, Lachlan Coote, Luke Douglas and Kane Linnett are included in coach Steve McCormack's 19-man squad.

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