England coach Wayne Bennett has delivered a vote of confidence in half-backs Luke Gale and Gareth Widdop ahead of Friday’s World Cup opener against Australia.
Super League Man of Steel Gale will partner NRL-based Widdop for the third time as they go up against new Kangaroos half-back pairing Cooper Cronk and Michael Morgan.
Widdop, captain of St George Illawarra, was second only to Australia captain Cameron Smith in the voting for the prestigious Dally M award in 2017 while Gale won the Super League equivalent.
Bennett added: “Gareth is really confident and that confidence rubs off on other people. Luke won Man of Steel over there and I can see how much more confident he is this year.
“They get the team round great so I’m more than happy with what I’ve got, they’ve just got to play well on the night.”
As expected, Jonny Lomax takes over at full-back from Stefan Ratchford after missing Friday’s warm-up match against a Combined Affiliated States with a slight hamstring strain and his St Helens team-mate, Alex Walmsley, is set to win his first cap from the bench despite missing yesterday’s training session due to illness.
The team list issued by the World Cup organisers, who announced all 14 squads for the opening round of matches, suggests that Wigan second-row John Bateman will keep the centre spot he occupied in the warm-up game.