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Kangaroos beat England 28 - 20

Australia survived a significant early scare to open their Rugby League World Cup campaign with a hard-fought 28-20 win over a spirited England in Cardiff on Saturday.

The Kangaroos had to claw back from 10-0 down midway through the first half as England overcame a troubled build-up to make a bright start in the tournament opener.

Tim Sheens' tournament favourites ultimately had too much class in a match played under a closed roof at Millennium Stadium but they were left with plenty of room for improvement.

Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston was involved in most of the key moments for Australia while debutant Andrew Fifita made a strong contribution off the bench.

South Sydney forwards Sam, George and Tom Burgess all impressed as they became the first trio of brothers to play for England while Warriors-bound fullback Sam Tomkins was among England's best.

An error-riddled performance in the opening 25 minutes had Australia contemplating a disastrous loss that could have put them on a semi-final collision course with reigning champions New Zealand.

But they flicked the switch with tries to Thurston, Greg Bird and Billy Slater in the space of 13 minutes to take an unlikely 18-10 lead into halftime.

It looked like Australia could run away with the match but England, to their credit, fought to the death.

Steve McNamara's side had entered the match on the back of a build-up which featured a friendly loss to minnows Italy and the axing of forward Gareth Hock for breaking a team alcohol ban.

They were also without Canterbury enforcer James Graham, believed to have been dropped for disciplinary issues, but the dramas looked to galvanise them.

England's ambition was clear early on as they twice knocked back gift two-point penalties and their boldness was rewarded with early tries to winger Ryan Hall and centre Leroy Codjoe.

George Burgess could have added another try but lost the ball over the line.

Australia looked to be getting on top and they finally got on the scoreboard in the 27th minute with Greg Inglis collecting a Cooper Cronk bomb above Tomkins and finding Thurston in support.

Thurston put Bird into a hole to give Australia the lead four minutes before the break but the Kangaroos first-half rally wasn't done.

Slater made a bust and ran almost 60 metres to score and Thurston converted from the sideline to extend the halftime lead to eight points.

Josh Morris finished off a sharp backline move to give Australia an ideal start to the second half back England got back within a converted try when George Burgess crashed over in the 51st minute.

Thurston gave Australia an eight-point buffer with a 65th minute penalty and the North Queensland playmaker was again involved as Darius Boyd crossed with ten minutes to go.

Winger Josh Charnley capitalised on some sloppy play from Australia with a late try but England left it too late.

Sam Burgess was put on report for a high shot that forced a dazed Sam Thaiday off the field midway through the second half.

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