England plan to make a virtue of necessity in their World Cup meeting with Australia by using Mark Calderwood as their surprise package. The discarded Wigan winger is the one change in Tony Smith's team for the match in Melbourne this Sunday, coming in because of Lee Smith's foot injury.
Calderwood would have been the longest of long shots to be in this situation when he was playing in Wigan's reserves a few weeks ago, but his ability to pursue the attacking kick could be a ploy that could catch out the world champions.
"He's the best kick-chaser in our competition, so it would be a waste not to use him like that," said England's main tactical kicker, Kevin Sinfield, who used to make the bullets for Calderwood to fire when they were both together at Leeds. "I think he's a better player all round now. Wigan have added something to his game. Defensively, he kept them in the game when they played us at Leeds a few weeks ago," Sinfield said. "I hope we don't have to rely on him to that extent on Sunday."
Calderwood will have to defend against a combination of the battle-hardened Brent Tate and the young phenomenon, Israel Folau, at the Telstra Dome on Sunday night, but is not daunted by the prospect. "I haven't seen much of them, but obviously I've read quite a bit about them and they are fantastic players," he said.
Calderwood will be bolstered by successful efforts against giant three-quarters in the past, notably Bradford's juggernaut, Lesley Vainikolo. "I'm not the biggest of wingers, but I work hard on stopping them playing to their strengths," he said after an England training session at Olympic Park.
The English staff had already decided that Smith's foot injury would rule him out, although he could be fit to face New Zealand in Newcastle a week on Saturday. "He should be fine for that, but Mark was very close to being picked last week and gets his chance this time," said his coach. "There's a lot of improvement needed, but we feel we've a lot of improvement in us."
Smith knows that England will have to lift their game dramatically if they are to cope with the likes of Folau and Greg Inglis. "How do you deal with them? You tackle them hard and get as many numbers there as you can. They are pretty special players." Australia have made just one change for Melbourne, with Karmichael Hunt, of the Brisbane Broncos, coming in for Kurt Gidley, who will miss the rest of the tournament with a knee injury. Johnathan Thurston has declared himself ready to play, despite what is now classified as the murder of his uncle, whose funeral is next Monday.
The recently retired Castleford forward, Awen Guttenbeil, has been listed to play for Tonga in their crunch match against Samoa tomorrow night. Guttenbeil will call a complete halt to his career when Tonga's World Cup campaign ends.
England (to play Australia, Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Sunday): P Wellens (St Helens); A Gardner (St Helens), M Gleeson (Warrington), K Senior (Leeds), M Calderwood (Wigan); L Pryce (St Helens), R Burrow (Leeds); J Peacock (Leeds, capt), J Roby (St Helens), J Graham (St Helens), G Hock (Wigan), G Ellis (Leeds), K Sinfield (Leeds). Substitutes: D McGuire (Leeds), A Morley (Warrington), M Fa'asavalu (St Helens), J Wilkin (St Helens).