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Rugby League

Steve McNamara gives nod to Michael McIlorum for warm-up


The England coach, Steve McNamara, has given a few clues as to his thinking about his choice of team for the World Cup as he and his rivals  enter the final stage of preparation for the competition this weekend.

England play Italy at Salford today, with two of the Burgess brothers, Sam and Tom, while a third, George, is on duty for the second-string England Knights in the first half of the double-header against Samoa.

Other pointers to McNamara’s plans could be the selection of Michael McIlorum at hooker ahead of James Roby and Leeds’ new signing Tom Briscoe starting on the wing rather than Josh Charnley.

McNamara is without Ben Westwood, who is serving a one-match ban for his punch on Blake Green in the Grand Final, and Sean O’Loughlin, who still has some soreness in the Achilles injury he carried into that match.

Italy, in their first World Cup, are largely an unknown quantity, but they do have the Minichiello brothers, Anthony and Mark, as well as St Helens’ Anthony Laffranchi.

The reigning champions, New Zealand, are also in action, playing the World Cup’s smallest nation, the Cook Islands, at Doncaster. The Kiwis are not fielding any of the players who featured in the NRL Grand Final last weekend, so Sonny Bill Williams will not play until the match against Samoa at Warrington a week tomorrow.

England’s game against Ireland at Huddersfield on 2 November has become the first to sell out completely, which the organisers say is an indication that this World Cup will be the most watched ever.