England v Papua New Guinea: RLWC Preview
England v Papua New Guinea
Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Sunday 4pm AEDT
England face an undefeated PNG side who venture outside Port Moresby for the first time in this World Cup.
Wayne Bennett's side has shown patches of what they are capable of without yet putting in an eighty-minute performance, with victories over France (36-6) and Lebanon (29-10). The Kumuls come to Melbourne after accounting for Wales, Ireland and the USA by a combined 128-12.
The English get Sam Burgess back who returns from a knee injury and will start in the second row, with Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins replacing Stefan Ratchford and Mark Percival in the backline. Gareth Widdop retains his spot at fullback, while Kevin Brown and Luke Gale remain in the halves. Elliott Whitehead comes back into the back row and Josh Hodgson starts in place of James Roby who drops to the bench.
PNG coach Michael Marum has made minimal changes. Ase Boas comes in for Lachlan Lam at five-eighth, while Stanton Albert and Rod Griffin are on the bench for Nixon Putt and Enock Maki respectively.
Why England can win: They've started well in all three games so far and, apart from their opener Australia, have overcome their opponents through an influx of first-half points. Their defence has also held up against the best – the Kangaroos could only manage three tries – and Bennett will have them primed for a better performance coming into the knockout rounds.
Why PNG can win: The Kumuls are riding the wave of their success in the pool stages. Skipper David Mead has led the way with four tries this tournament and will be keen to add to his tally on Sunday. Many of these players have been together for a long time when you factor in the PNG Hunters' success in the Queensland Cup and coach Michael Marum has got them playing for each other.
The History: Played 2; England 2; PNG 0. England has had the better of the Kumuls in their two previous clashes, though the Pacific nation went close in the 2008 World Cup where England left it late to win 32-22.
Match officials: Referee: James Child; Touch judges: Mark Craven and Chris Butler; Video referee: Steve Chiddy.
Televised: Channel Seven – live from 3:30pm AEDT.
NRL.com predicts: England's game management and the class in their spine should be too much for PNG. The latter has been impressive, and they need to keep their error count to a minimum if they are to challenge Sean O'Loughlin and his troops. England by 10.