England will be looking to kick off their Four Nations campaign with a win tomorrow morning, as they tackle Samoa in Brisbane to kick off the tournament in earnest. The game – which is the first part of a double-header, with Australia v New Zealand following – sees four debutants for Steve McNamara’s side, as a new era begins following the retirement of former captain Kevin Sinfield earlier this year.
England are much changed from their last international outing, the semi-final defeat to New Zealand in last year’s World Cup. The likes of Leroy Cudjoe, Sam Burgess and James Roby – as well as Sinfield – are all missing for a variety of different reasons, and the onus will be on players like Daryl Clark to step up in their absence.
Joe Westerman, Matty Smith, Josh Hodgson and the aforementioned Clark were all handed debuts by McNamara when he named his team on Tuesday, and with captain Sean O’Loughlin out injured, Westerman in particular will have a huge role to fill as England seek a perfect start ahead of games against the Kangaroos and the Kiwis.
Samoa have a high level of experience in both the NRL and Super League, and earned the right to play in the Four Nations by beating Tonga in a play-off earlier this year. And although they have lost a trio of stars due to an off-field incident earlier this week, their huge pack will be tough to deal with, leaving England facing a huge task in the opening week of the tournament.
Castleford fans will get a chance to see new signing Ben Roberts, who lines up at scrum-half for the Samoans. Further Super League experience comes from the bench, as Wakefield’s Pita Godinet and St Helens’ Mose Masoe make up part of an imposing interchange bench.
England: S Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors); J Charnley (Wigan), K Watkins (Leeds), M Shenton (Castleford), R Hall (Leeds); G Widdop (St George Illawarra), M Smith (Wigan); G Burgess (South Sydney), J Hodgson (Hull KR), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs, capt), L Farrell (Wigan), J Tomkins (Wigan), J Westerman (Hull)
Interchange: D Clark (Castleford), B Ferres (Huddersfield), T Burgess (South Sydney), C Hill (Warrington)
Samoa: T Simona (Wests Tigers); A Winterstein (North Queensland), R Leutele (Cronulla), J Leilua (Newcastle), D Vidot (Brisbane); B Roberts (Melbourne), K Stanley (St George Illawarra); S Tagaetese Cronulla), M Sio (New Zealand Warriors), D Fa’alogo (Newcastle), F Pritchard (Canterbury Bulldogs), L Ah Mau (St George Illawarra), J McGuire (Brisbane)
Interchange: P Godinet (Wakefield), J Sene-Lefao (Manly), I Liu (Sydney Roosters), M Masoe (St Helens)