England and South Sydney Rabbitohs prop, Thomas Burgess has admitted that places in the team for the finals will be up for grab when Wayne Bennett’s men play France in a double-header at Perth Rectangular Stadium on Sunday
Burgess was not surprised that Bennett has made four changes to the side which beat Lebanon 29-10 last Saturday night to give all 24 members of the England squad an opportunity to press for a spot in the finals.
Mark Percival, Kevin Brown, Mike McMeeken and Scott Taylor have been named to make their first appearance of the World Cup, while Alex Walmsley retains his place after impressing Bennett in his Test debut against the Cedars. Other changes see James Roby starting at hooker and Gareth Widdop moving to fullback in the absence of Jonny Lomax, who is recovering from a calf strain.
“It’s a squad effort this tournament, It’l take the full squad to win it,” Burgess told RLWC.com
Having made a blistering start to the match against the Lebanese last weekend, England ran in only one second-half try, as errors and ill-discipline plagued their efforts.
The four-pointer – provided by Burgess’ supporting run in the 56th minute – was a rare bright moment in an otherwise dark and disappointing half for the English.
Looking slightly disjointed from when five-eighth Widdop shifted to fullback to accommodate the services of George Williams off the bench in the 60th minute, England failed to trouble to scorers in the match’s last quarter.
“We spoke about it after the game, the second-half probably wasn’t up to our standard. It’s something we’re going to keep working on, to keep growing through the tournament,” Burgess said.
“I don’t think [Widdop’s fullback move] was the issue, it was more just our passing and our execution. We’d obviously tried a few little combos there, it was good to get a few minutes into George.
“The halves will work with that this week. We probably dropped off a little bit in that second-half, we’re still building towards an 80-minute performance.”
Burgess and the English squad will be hoping that they discover the ‘complete’ performance when they met European rivals France in Perth, on Sunday.
Pressed from the first whistle until the last against the Cedars, Burgess made clear that the side’s attention to detail must improve against the struggling French side.
“We expected [Lebanon] to be very tough opponents, I knew that they’d be coming very hard and that they’d leave nothing to chance,” Burgess said.
“They played very well, we’ve got to give them credit for that. They’re a growing nation, hopefully they can keep growing. More lads are going to step up and represent their heritage.
“It’ll be much of the same against France on Sunday, we just need to be better than what we were last weekend.”
After naming his side for the match against France, Bennett said: “I was pleased with the win against Lebanon but I’m looking for a better performance this week.
“We lost our way in the second-half in the last game and that’s something we’ll be looking to improve on. We know what we’re capable of, so we’ll be aiming to put things right by Sunday.
“We’re off the mark now in this tournament and building each week.
“I know France have lost their first two games but that won’t alter the way we go into this one – they’re a strong side with some talented guys who can play. They’ll be doing everything they can to get a win in this group so we’ll have to be at our best.”
England v France
Perth Rectangular Stadium, Perth, 6:00pm (AWST) Sunday