England name unchanged squad for World Cup semi-final against Tonga

Kevin Brown gets checked by medical staff after a heavy tackle during Sunday's quarter-final win against Papua New Guinea. Picture: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ
Kevin Brown gets checked by medical staff after a heavy tackle during Sunday's quarter-final win against Papua New Guinea. Picture: Brendon Ratnayake/SWpix.com/PhotosportNZ
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Veteran stand-off Kevin Brown has been named in an unchanged England team for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final but must prove his fitness.

The 33-year-old Warrington playmaker will undergo a series of head tests during the week before he can take his place in the side to play Tonga at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium for a place in the December 2 final.

Brown was withdrawn at half-time during England’s 36-6 win over Papua New Guinea in last Sunday’s quarter-final in Melbourne after taking two bangs to the head.

The incident happened after 25 minutes and, although he managed to persuade England’s medical staff he was fit to continue, coach Wayne Bennett revealed afterwards that the decision was taken to remove the player from the game after conclusive evidence of the concussion was produced by a non-playing England team-mate on his phone.

Bennett said the concussion was rated category one, the lowest grading, and he was confident Brown would be fit for the semi-final.

However, Brown has a history of head knocks and an England spokesman confirmed that his inclusion is subject to medical clearance and that the team will be following RLWC tournament protocol in the lead-up to the game.

Bennett has been impressed with Gareth Widdop’s displays at full-back and Brown’s half-back partnership with Luke Gale but he has a contingency plan in case Brown fails to pass the mandatory head test.

That appears to be the recall of Jonny Lomax to full-back, with Widdop reverting to his original stand-off role.

Lomax has taken the place of the only other specialist stand-off, George Williams, among the list of four reserves, with prop Scott Taylor replacing utility back Stefan Ratchford.

England were forced under tournament rules to announce their squad on Tuesday but have the option of changing it up to 24 hours before the game.

Team: 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 Hodgson (Canberra), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), S Burgess (South Sydney), E Whitehead (Canberra), S O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt). Substitutes: A Walmsley (St Helens), T Burgess (South Sydney), B Currie (Warrington), J Roby (St Helens).

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