Brown backed to resume Cup campaign by Bennett
LEEDS RHINOS and Castleford Tigers will both be represented in Saturday's World Cup semi-final after England coach Wayne Bennett named an unchanged side.
Rhinos’ Ryan Hall will be on the left-wing for the showdown against surprise package Tonga in Auckland and clubmate Kallum Watkins is set to partner Huddersfield Giants’ in-form Jermaine McGillvary on the other flank.
Tigers scrum-half Luke Gale retains his ever-present record in the competition, but there is no place for Castleford second-row Mike McMeeken who has made just one appearance so far.
Watkins touched down twice in a man-of-the-match performance in England’s quarter-final win over Papua New Guinea last weekend, when Hall was also among the try scorers.
Gale will line up alongside Kevin Brown in the halves, if the Warrington Wolves man proves his fitness.
Brown has been named in the side despite having been taken off at half-time of the game against PNG after suffering a blow to the head.
He played on following the 25th-minute injury, but was withdrawn after a non-playing member of the squad saw replays of the incident and informed the coaching staff Brown had been knocked out.
Bennett said the concussion was rated category one, the lowest grading and he is confident Brown will be fit for the semi-final.
The former Wigan, Huddersfield and Widnes playmaker has a history of concussions and will have to pass a head test before being given the all-clear to play. England named their squad yesterday, in line with tournament rules, but have the option of changing it up until 24 hours before the game, which kicks off at 5am GMT.
Gareth Widdop – who plays at stand-off for St George-Illawarra – has been named at full-back, but if Brown is ruled out he could switch to stand-off with Jonny Lomax, of St Helens, coming in as the last line of defence.
Bennett has stuck with Wigan back-rower John Bateman in the left-centre and Josh Hodgson, of Canberra Raiders, will again start at hooker, with St Helens’ James Roby on the bench.
Lomax has taken the place of the squad’s only other specialist stand-off, Wigan’s George Williams, among the list of four reserves outside the 17.
Tonga boss Kristian Woolf will switch his hookers around with Siliva Havili starting and Sione Katoa among the substitutes. Sydney Roosters prop Sio Siua Taukeiaho is back in the Tonga side after sitting out the 24-22 quarter-final win over Lebanon with a recurrence of an old knee injury, while Penrith forward Peni Terepo is recalled to the bench after recovering from his own knee injury.
Moa misses out on the 17, along with Mahe Fonua (Hull), Samisoni Langi (Leigh), Manu Vatuvei (Salford) and Ukuma Ta’i (Huddersfield) but Warrington-bound second rower Ben Murdoch-Masila is on the bench.
Australian Matt Cecchin is match referee with Wakefield’s Ben Thaler the video referee.
England: Widdop, McGillvary, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Brown, Gale, Hill, Hodgson, Graham, S Burgess, Whitehead, O’Loughlin. Subs Walmsley, T Burgess, Currie, Roby.
Tonga: Hopoate, Tupou, Jennings, Hurrell, Fusitu’a, Lolohea, Hingano, Fifita, Havili, Taukeiaho, Ma’u, Manu, Taumalolo. Subs Katoa, Terepo, Pangai Junior, Murdoch-Masila.