England Confident In Injured Stars
England expect playmaker Kevin Brown and star forward Sam Burgess to take the field against Mate Ma'a Tonga on Saturday night in Auckland, despite both failing to take part in training on Wednesday.
Coach Wayne Bennett named both players in his starting side this week, with Brown going through concussion protocol and Burgess picking up a minor ankle complaint, separate to the knee ligament injury he suffered in the Rugby League World Cup opener against Australia a month ago.
But Bennett said he was taking a safety-first approach with the pair and had little doubt they would be back on the field by Friday's captain's run.
"[Sam] hurt his ankle a little bit, but he is not going to be an issue either. They will all train Friday," Bennett said.
"He certainly is [going to be OK by Friday].
"[Kevin] has got to do a series of tests and is not allowed to train with the team in the early part of the week, but he's on track with all that.
"If he is going to be cleared to play he will train on Friday.
"Extremely confident… we are not planning on [having to bring another player in]."
Brown was knocked out in last week's 36-6 victory over Papua New Guinea and took no part in the second half, while Burgess was injured late in the first half against Australia in week one.
England hooker Josh Hodgson said the inclusion of the pair would provide a key boost to his side ahead of facing an unbeaten Tongan outfit, sure to be up for the occasion at what is tracking to be a capacity crowd at Mount Smart Stadium.
"Obviously they are two massive players in our team, so if they are playing it will be a boost for us," Hodgson said.
"Tonga have got some great players and are showing that they are a great team.
"The forwards is obviously going to be a big battle as it is every game…. Tonga have got some big boys and a great forward pack.
"We know we need to be a lot better than we have been in [the] previous week."