ENGLAND great Ian Bell doesn't think much of the Australian side his countrymen will face this summer, saying it's full of "nice guys" who would get slaughtered if this series was being played in the Old Dart.
The 118-Test veteran scored four centuries against Australia - including three in the 2013 series - and said the hosts' false "bravado" is merely bluster to distract from some serious cracks in their line-up.
The home side's pacemen have been watching footage of Mitchell Johnson terrorising the Poms in the 2013-14 Ashes to gain inspiration for this series and Mitchell Starc has already spoken about the need to be aggressive with the ball.
But Bell said no matter how tough the Aussies - particularly their quicks - want to talk, there's no "fear factor" about Steve Smith's squad, denying England would be intimidated by a side with more bark than bite.
"I don't look at this Aussie side and worry," Bell said when speaking to Paddy Power News. "They're very good at talking themselves up, they're full of bravado - but they've got as many question marks as England do.
"When I first started, the Australian side had been great for 10 years. They were really aggressive - this bunch now, apart from maybe David Warner, are just nice guys.
"I don't buy into this supposed 'fear factor' Australia think they have. It's all very familiar.
"Mitchell Starc says he's going to be aggressive, but he played for Yorkshire with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow - so they're not going to be scared of him.
"Australia can be as aggressive as they want to be, it's not going to get anyone out - they'll have to rely on skill to do that, which is a big question mark for me."
Bell respects the pace trio of Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, but doesn't believe Australia has the depth to cover for them should someone go down injured, despite fast bowlers Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers being included in the squad for the first two Tests.
The elegant right-hander also said Australia would be on the end of a whitewash if it was playing this series in England and questioned whether a laser focus on captain Joe Root - the No. 2 ranked Test batsman in the world - meant the men in the baggy green were actually afraid of him.
"Australia are only favourites because they're on home soil. If this series was in England, they wouldn't win a Test match," Bell said.
"They have three very good seamers, who will really test the England batsmen, but beyond that there's not much depth - one injury and they've not got a lot.
"The fact that they're singling out Joe Root means they're worried about him. They know they have to go at him, because he's our danger man - they need more than skill to win."
Bell also had his say on the surprise selections that saw Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine promoted to the national side. Bancroft's brilliant early season Sheffield Shield form meant he replaced Matthew Renshaw at the top of the order, Marsh beat fellow No. 6 candidates Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright for the final middle order berth and Paine came from the clouds to take the gloves ahead of Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill.
Bell said none of those selections will worry England, who will be pleased to see a lack of confrontational characters.
"Australia calling up Tim Paine is a massive shock. He hasn't been playing for Tasmania for the last couple of years, so to see him thrown into an Ashes side is real surprise - and a massive boost for England," Bell said.
"He'll be a target for them, no doubt. It's news that will give the England squad confidence.
"I thought Australia would've gone for someone like Matthew Wade, someone who will stand up and be in your face. Their squad lacks someone like that, and I thought Steve Smith, in particular, would've wanted another confrontational character in the team.
"The three surprise selections - Paine, Cameron Bancroft and Shaun Marsh - are all quite quiet guys. They're not aggressive characters, they won't be growling on the field."