England have made three changes from the19-man squad they selected against Ireland for their final group match of the Rugby League World Cup 2013 against Fiji at the KC Stadium, Hull, kick off 2.30pm.
Coach Steve McNamara has rested South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Tom Burgess, St Helens hooker James Roby and Melbourne Storm half back Gareth Widdop.
England welcome back Souths’ forward Sam Burgess after he sat out the Ireland match with a one-match suspension and Wigan Warriors forward Lee Mossop also returns after missing England’s 42-0 victory over The Wolfhounds. Wigan’s Michael McIlorum is drafted into the squad for the first time in the tournament and is set to start the game in the hooking role.
“Mickey (McIlorum) deserves his call up,” said McNamara. “He has trained tremendously hard. He is an aggressive type of player, who will command the middle of the field.”
With this being England’s final game of the group stages, McNamara is eager for the team to finish on a high and advance through to the knockout stages in good form.
“We have trained well and we are ready to put in a performance,” he said.
“I get the feeling the group on the verge of some really big performances and this will be one of them.
“We are coming up against opposition we respect. We have so far seen a Fiji team that is very exciting to watch with some brilliant outside backs. They have a set of forwards that are as physical as any team in the tournament. I can see why people see them as a threat on Saturday. Across the make-up of their team, the vast majority of their players are regular starters in the NRL and they are used to this level intensity.
“The aim for us is about gradual progression. We are looking to improve each week as the tournament moves towards the knockout stages. It is important to win against teams in and around you, but at some point you have to make sure all elements that have been positive in every game come together aiming for that complete performance. We know that if we are going to win the World Cup that has to happen.”
After England’s 42-0 demolition of Ireland last week, McNamara still believes that the team can improve in a number of areas especially with their defensive make-up.
“Even though we put in a strong performance against Ireland and prevented them from scoring, I actually feel we can improve on our defence,” added McNamara.
“In some respects we defended with more vigour the week before against Australia. The aim is to continually improve and we have to test ourselves in that area on Saturday.
“We defended a little bit passive against Ireland. On Saturday we need to show some aggression against Fiji. We did just enough to defend what Ireland threw at us and we were slick in our attacking structures especially in that first half.”
For the second game running, England are looking to play in front of sell-out crowd as the Rugby League World Cup 2013 continues to capture the imagination of public.
“Hull is a genuine Rugby League city with vibrancy for the game, I believe, not matched anywhere else,” said McNamara who hails from the city and is passionate about his roots.
“There will be a great atmosphere at the KC Stadium on Saturday. With a near sell-out expected, there will be a very special atmosphere in the ground. These occasions don’t come round that often and it is important to enjoy the day and end it on a high with a big win.”
The England 19-man squad to face Fiji at KC Stadium, Hull on Saturday November 8 2013, kick off 2.30pm is as follows (professional club and community club in brackets):
Carl Ablett (Leeds Rhinos, Hunslet Parkside)
Tom Briscoe (Hull FC, Featherstone Lions)
George Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Sam Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Rob Burrow (Leeds Rhinos, Featherstone Lions)
Rangi Chase (Castleford Tigers, Dannevirke Tigers)
Leroy Cudjoe (Huddersfield Giants, Newsome Panthers)
Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Brett Ferres (Huddersfield Giants, Smawthorne Panthers)
James Graham (Canterbury Bulldog, Blackbrook)
Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves, New Spring Lions)
Michael McIlorum (Wigan Warriors, Queens)
Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors, Hensingham)
Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Kevin Sinfield (captain) (Leeds Rhinos, Waterhead)
Sam Tomkins (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
Ben Westwood (Warrington Wolves, Normanton Knights)