BELIEF is key to England getting their Rugby League World Cup campaign off to a winning start, says Denis Betts.

The Widnes Vikings head coach, who is assistant to Wayne Bennett with the national team, is Down Under preparing the troops for the opener against Australia in Melbourne tomorrow, Friday, and for the weeks ahead.

"With the quality of the players, the organisation and the backroom staff, it’s exciting times," he said.

“Getting off to a good start is an understatement really. It’s like one of those elephants in the room, having travelled to Australia Australia and we’ve got to win against Australia in the first game to give ourselves that belief at moving forward in the competition.

“It won’t be the be-all-and-end-all, but obviously to get a win in the first game is priority at the moment.

“The key to achieving that is intensity in our training, being healthy, having belief, having confidence in each other.

“We’ve got the ability and character, we’ve got to get the right combinations on the field.

“You want to hit the ground running. It’s not about easing your way in. We want to win and we want to move ourselves into the next game full of confidence.

“If you’re in tournament rugby there can be second chances but you don’t want to wait for second chances, you want to win the games that are in front of you.”

Holders Australia are rightly favourites to take the title for the 11th time.

“They’ve got some of the best players not only in the world but who might be the best to have ever played the game," said Betts.

“When you talk about Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith, they are iconic players not only of a generation but of a long period of time.

“Our challenge as a group is understanding that it’s going to be 13 players and four subs for them, and 13 players and four subs for us, and whoever turns up and gets the best out of themselves on that day will win the game.”

Man of Steel Luke Gale is to partner St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop in the England halves and a powerful forward pack includes captain Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Burgess and James Graham.

Melbourne full back Billy Slater will return to the Australian team for the first time in 30 months, while Storm forward Jordan McLean and Cronulla utility Wade Graham have been chosen to make their Test debuts for the Kangaroos.

Betts is taking a lot from the experience, which can only help Vikings in the future.

“Being involved in a world cup tournament is unbelievably exciting," he said.

"It’s an exciting group to be around. With Wayne Bennett leading it, it’s going to be a good tournament.

“From my point of view working with Wayne has been sensational."

England will also face Lebanon and France in Pool A matches.

AUSTRALIA: Billy Slater, Dane Gagai, William Chambers, Joshua Dugan, Valentine Holmes, Michael Morgan, Cooper Cronk, Aaron Woods, Cameron Smith, David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Jake Trbojevic. Subs: Wade Graham, Jordan Mclean, Joshua Mcguire, Tyson Frizell.

ENGLAND: Jonny Lomax; Jermaine McGillvary, Kallum Watkins, John Bateman, Ryan Hall; Gareth Widdop, Luke Gale; Chris Hill, Josh Hodgson, James Graham, Sam Burgess, Elliott Whitehead, Sean O'Loughlin. Subs: Alex Walmsley, Chris Heighington, Thom Burgess, James Roby.

Meanwhile, Vikings' Ed Chamberlain will feature in the opening weekend of matches.

He has been named by Ireland coach Mark Aston at right centre for Sunday's clash with Italy at Barlow Park in Cairns.

Former Vikings players Scott Grix and Anthony Mullally are also set to feature for Ireland.

Mike Parsons