McNamara gambles on new caps

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The Independent Online

Steve McNamara has made sweeping changes for Sunday's must-win game against Australia by dropping three players and giving Test debuts to three others.

The England coach will give first caps to the Huddersfield utility back, Leroy Cudjoe at centre and to two young Cumbrian forwards, Warrington's Ben Harrison and Shaun Lunt of Huddersfield, on the bench. "It's a great day for Cumbrian rugby league, with us both being picked," said Lunt, who was plucked from the relative obscurity of Workington Town 18 months ago.

The casualties are two other Huddersfield players, Kevin Brown and Darrell Griffin, and last Saturday's full-back against New Zealand, Gareth Widdop. Being left out will be a particularly bitter pill for Widdop to swallow, as he was looking forward to playing in his adopted hometown of Melbourne, to which his family emigrated five years ago.

McNamara has made the decision, just as Wigan did last season, to move Sam Tomkins to full-back, but Widdop came under consideration for centre. He was perceived, however, to be reluctant to play in a relatively unfamiliar position.

Not content with wielding the axe, McNamara has changed the roles of a number of players. Sean O'Loughlin moves from loose forward to stand-off and Luke Robinson from the bench to start at scrum-half. Sam Burgess is switched from second row to prop, and Joel Tomkins and Ben Westwood from the substitutes to start in the back row. Stuart Fielden drops down to the bench, where he will be alongside Eorl Crabtree, brought into the XVII at Griffin's expense.

Wherever you look, there are risky selections, but McNamara clearly believes risks have to be taken to have a chance of beating Australia.

Joe Westerman, who played for England in their warm-up game against Cumbria, has moved from Castleford to Hull on a four-year contract.