A rusty Australia overcame a poor start and a spirited England performance to open their Rugby League World Cup campaign with a hard-fought 28-20 win in Cardiff yesterday.
The tournament favourites had to claw back from 10-0 down midway through the first half as England cast aside a troubled build-up.
Playmaker Johnathan Thurston was instrumental as the Kangaroos ultimately had too much class in the tournament-opener at Millennium Stadium.
Australia coach Tim Sheens paid tribute to England, who could lose star forward Sam Burgess to suspension for a high tackle that forced Sam Thaiday off in the second half.
But Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith said Australia needed to lift considerably in their bid to make amends for the shock loss to New Zealand in the 2008 final.
"We were pretty ordinary, to be blunt, in that first 20 minutes, but I was really happy with the boys' composure," Smith said.
A burst of three tries in 13 minutes allowed Australia to take an unlikely 18-10 lead into halftime after an error-riddled performance opened the door for an English ambush.
Man of the match Thurston scored Australia's first try and had a hand in two others while Andrew Fifita had a solid debut.
South Sydney twins George and Tom Burgess impressed on debut, joining Sam to became the first trio of brothers to play for England. Warriors-bound fullback Sam Tomkins was also among England's best.
The second match of the Cardiff doubleheader was tit for tat until after halftime, when Italy swamped Wales 32-16 in their World Cup debut.
Elliot Kear's score off a cross-field kick, Wales' third try, edged a pair by powerful Italy centre Aidan Guerra to nip ahead 16-14 moments after halftime. But Italy then took control, adding four unanswered tries with man of the match Joshua Mantellato showing superb skills.