Rob Burrow demonstrated at the weekend that a role has to be found for him in the latter stages of the tournament, as England look to progress beyond the quarter-finals.
The diminutive Leeds half-back or hooker was left out of the 17 for the first two group games. He came on as a substitute in Saturday’s 34-12 win over Fiji and had much to do with turning a potential embarrassment into a solid victory, scoring one try and playing a part in two others.
The England coach, Steve McNamara, praised his impact, saying that there was “no better player in rugby league” at running at a tiring defence from dummy-half. He missed the last few minutes after a blow to the head, which is not thought to be serious. England’s other standout player was Sam Burgess, back after a one-match suspension and clearly the best forward in an intriguing battle.
McNamara admitted that he had left the elder Burgess in the game for longer than he had intended, because he was playing so well. “He found his rhythm today. He found his timing,” the coach said.
Another major success, in the second half at least, was Rangi Chase, who played a prominent part in four of England’s six tries, all scored within 18 minutes.
England will now play the losers of today’s game between France and Samoa in their quarter-final at Wigan on Saturday, with Fiji, who deserved much credit for their efforts at Hull, playing the winners at Warrington on Sunday.
McNamara disclosed how affected he and his players had been by the news on the morning of the match of the death of the former Hull, England and Ireland full-back Steve Prescott.
Despite being desperately ill with stomach cancer, Prescott presented the England players with their shirts before their match against the Exiles in June. “When you put all his qualities as a player and a human being together, it’s a really sad loss,” McNamara said.
Scotland have a quarter-final against New Zealand at Headingley on Friday, following the 16-0 defeat of Italy by Tonga at Halifax last night. Willie Manu, Daniel Foster and Peni Terepo scored the Tongan tries in a tight game at a near-full Shay, that saw waves of Italian attacks repulsed.
In the match at Neath between two countries already eliminated, there was further disappointment for Wales, who were beaten 28-24 by the Cook Islands, who recorded their first-ever World Cup victory in the process.
World Cup: quarter-final draw
New Zealand v Scotland
Australia v US
England v France or Samoa
France or Samoa v Fiji
To be played on 15/16/17 Nov