Rugby League World Cup: Gareth Widdop and Carl Ablett back for England

Last Updated: 21/11/13 2:05pm

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Steve McNamara has made two changes to his 19-man England squad to face New Zealand in Saturday's Rugby League World Cup semi-final with Gareth Widdop and Carl Ablett recalled.

Widdop has featured for just 54 minutes of the World Cup so far and the Halifax-born playmaker has replaced Rangi Chase, who had been an ever present.

Chase and Kevin Sinfield have been England's halves throughout the competition and it remains to be seen whether Widdop is given the nod or if Rob Burrow fills in at number six.

The axing of Chase represents an about-turn by McNamara, who has largely kept faith with the New Zealand-born half-back ever since he switched allegiance two years ago.

McNamara gave Chase his debut against France in October 2011 and appeared to have pinned his hopes of World Cup glory on a half-back partnership with skipper Sinfield.

The pair have been in tandem throughout the tournament but England have played well only in patches and Chase appears to have paid the price following their victory over France.


Ablett returns to the side after missing last Saturday's 34-6 success at Wigan's DW Stadium in the quarter-final and he takes hooker Michael McIlorum's place in the squad.

"As with every week, the squad is picked with not only the opposition in mind but the best combinations for ourselves."
Steve McNamara

That means St Helens' James Roby is set to start the mouth-watering clash against the Kiwis at Wembley in Saturday's double-header semi-final that also includes Australia against Fiji.

"As with every week, the squad is picked with not only the opposition in mind but the best combinations for ourselves," said McNamara.

"We have had a great week with our preparation and the players are ready to take on the world champions in what I believe is the biggest game we have been involved in since the Rugby League World Cup semi-final back in 2008.

"The players are well aware of the importance of the game and the improvements we have to make from our previous matches to give ourselves every chance of beating New Zealand.

"We will have to be at our best to win, but we'll relish the pressure of playing against a quality team on one of the biggest stages in world sport."

England's 19-man squad:

C Ablett (Leeds), G Burgess (South Sydney), S Burgess (South Sydney), R Burrow (Leeds), J Charnley (Wigan), L Cudjoe (Huddersfield), L Farrell (Wigan), B Ferres (Huddersfield), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), R Hall (Leeds), C Hill (Warrington), L Mossop (Wigan), S O'Loughlin (Wigan), J Roby (St Helens), K Sinfield (Leeds, cpt), S Tomkins (Wigan), K Watkins (Leeds), B Westwood (Warrington), G Widdop (Melbourne).

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