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England back halves to shine

England coach Denis Betts is backing Kevin Brown and Luke Gale to help guide their team to victory against Papua New Guinea in Melbourne on Sunday.

Brown and Gale have only played two previous Tests together - against Samoa in May and last week against France - but the halves pairing already have an excellent understanding.

"It's great combinations and understanding of how they work together," Betts said of why the duo have kept their spots for a second successive week.

"There's good talk. They communicate really well. When you watch some of our attacking players against France, you saw the connection between our halves."

Jonny Lomax wore the number one jersey against Australia and is available for selection. Regular five-eighth Gareth Widdop retains the fullback role in a move that adds more attacking options.

"He's a half in disguise, but doesn't have to do any tackling," Betts said of Widdop. 

"He's played there before – it's not like it's new to him. And the way we want to play is getting the combinations right through our halves and our fullback. It suits him because he gets more ball in his hand. 

"He sees things that good players see."

Betts likes Brown's coolness and decision-making and says he's stepped up to Test football.

"He's been at the age where he's seen it all and done it all," he said. 

"He's had to fight his way back into form. He knows how to play the game at this level know. That's the beauty of Kev now. He wants to play at this level so badly and has worked so hard to get there. This style of play suits his game, and he's got a good understanding of how to make people better around him.

"They (Brown and Gale) can fill each other's roles on both sides of the field. That usually takes a cou-ple of years, but they've found it pretty quickly."


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