Australia looked well on the way to an eighth straight Rugby League World Cup title after demolishing England 52-4 in their pool match at Melbourne’s Telstra Dome tonight.

A week trouncing New Zealand – the other side expected to challenge them for the crown – the Kangaroos again looked a class above as they ran in nine tries to one, Storm pair Greg Inglis and Billy Slater delighting their home fans with hat-tricks.

The pair combined for an exhilarating 100-metre try midway through the second half, Inglis collecting an England grubber on his own goaline before finding Slater, who ran rings around Lions winger Mark Calderwood on his way to the line.

Such was Australia’s dominance that coach Ricky Stuart could afford to give skipper Darren Lockyer a 23-minute early mark – the ice wrapped around his strained biceps more precaution than cause for alarm.

England showed some signs of life, particularly out of dummy half where diminutive halfback Rob Burrow and James Roby caused numerous headaches for a retreating defence, but their good moments were sporadic against a clinical Australian side.

The win all but assures the Kangaroos – provided they don’t slip up against Papua New Guinea next Sunday – top spot heading into the semi-finals, but it hardly seems to matter who else qualifies for the final four with another World Cup appearing a formality for the home side.