Rugby League World Cup: England home in on first win of crazy tournament


England can get their World Cup campaign back on track in front of a sell-out crowd that will emphasise just how this tournament has seized the public imagination.

Nobody would have predicted, after a first week full of surprises, that Italy and the United States would have won games and the only home nation with a victory would be Scotland. This afternoon, at the John Smith's Stadium in Huddersfield, there should be another, with logic saying that England will beat Ireland.

James Graham will be back from the naughty corner, but even more significant is the return from injury of the Wigan captain, Sean O'Loughlin. He has struggled with his Achilles tendon since before the Grand Final, but has been passed fit to take the place of the suspended Sam Burgess at loose forward.

O'Loughlin will bring very different qualities to that role. His presence in the side will provide an extra play-maker to take some of the burden off Kevin Sinfield – something that could have been crucial in keeping control of the match after England made such a good start against Australia last Saturday.

"We gave Australia too much of the ball last week, so we need to keep hold of it a bit better against Ireland," said the England full-back Sam Tomkins, referring to the opening 28-20 defeat. "We probably let them off the hook with a couple of penalties, so we'll be looking to improve our discipline."

Provided England can attend to these two areas, they should get the win they need; compared with some teams they have put on the field since they became a separate country for rugby league purposes, this is not a particularly strong Irish line-up.

With Simon Grix already ruled out, his brother, Scott, misses the chance to play on his Huddersfield home turf. He injured his thigh late in Ireland's defeat by Fiji on Monday and will be replaced at full-back by the much less experienced James Mendeika, who switches from stand-off.

Ireland might have no Grix, but they will have plenty of grit. One player England will have taken particular note of was the Manly reserve-grader, James Hasson, who impressed with his aggressive approach, with and without the ball, when he came off the bench.

"We need to believe in ourselves and believe we can beat England," he said. "We were a bit deflated after the Fiji game, but at the same time we can't be too down, because we know we put in a good performance."

The short turnaround since that match will do Ireland no favours; everything points to Mark Aston's men putting up a plucky display for a time and then tiring.

In the day's other Group A match between Australia and Fiji at St Helens, much will hinge on two players who, in this zany world of international qualification, have played for both countries.

Jarryd Hayne was one of the stars of Fiji's surge to the semi-finals in the 2008 World Cup and he admits it will feel strange to be playing against them this time. "It was a bit of a shock to make the Australian squad," said Hayne, who stands in for the rested Billy Slater this evening. "I thought I'd be playing for Fiji again."

Akuila Uate has moved in the opposite direction. Already an Australia international, he has been released to play for Fiji and the quality of his finishing was there for all to see in his hat-trick of tries against Ireland.

Tomorrow, following their opening day defeat by Italy, Wales have a "must-win" game against the US at Wrexham. It might have looked a formality for them a couple of weeks ago, but since then the Americans have beaten France in a friendly and the Cook Islands in the tournament proper, and have looked impressive.

A little later at Workington, the surprise packets, Scotland and Italy, come head-to-head, with the winners looking a good bet to make the quarter-finals. However often you say that, the more amazing it sounds, but that is the nature of this World Cup.

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits