With England only, days away from their first World Cup final in 22 years, Head coach Wayne Bennett has named the 17-man squad he hopes will end the Australian dominance of the competition.
Following the tough Semi final battle against Tonga, one person that will defiantly miss out is Canberra Raiders Hooker Josh Hodgeson who was forced to leave the field during the first half of the semi final and has since been diagnosed with a ruptured ACL knee ligament which will require surgery and a 7/8-month rehab program. He has been replaced in the starting line up by veteran St Helens hooker James Roby who has turned back the years with some excellent performances during the tournament. The other worry for England is over the skipper Sean O’Loughlin who also suffered a leg injury during the last game, but has been named in the starting line up and will under go the best possible treatment to ensure he is fit and ready.
Other than the swap at hooker the rest of the starting team is the same as that which won the semi-final, with Bennett keeping faith with Gareth Widdop at Fullback and the half back partnership of Luke Gale and Kevin Brown. 2nd rower forward John Bateman will continue his run in the centres, where he has started every game.
The pack will again be lead by St George front rower James Graham alongside Warrington’s Chris hill, with Sam Burgess and Elliott Whitehead making up the 2nd row and O’Loughlin packing down at Loose forward. In the only change to the Interchange bench Newcastle Knights forward Chris Heighington has been recalled to the side and takes the spot left by Roby’s promotion to the starting team, joining Walmsley, Burgess and Currie.
England: G Widdop (St George Illawarra); J McGillvary (Huddersfield), K Watkins (Leeds), J Bateman (Wigan), R Hall (Leeds); K Brown (Warrington), L Gale (Castleford); C Hill (Warrington), J Roby (St Helens), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), S Burgess (South Sydney), E Whitehead (Canberra), S O'Loughlin (Wigan, capt).
Interchanges: A Walmsley (St Helens), B Currie (Warrington), T Burgess (South Sydney), C Heighington (Newcastle Knights).