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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test