Williams misses out on Cup Final spot
Veteran forward Chris Heighington has been recalled by England for the World Cup final against Australia.
The 34-year-old Cronulla second rower has been handed the vacant bench spot, with James Roby starting at hooker in place of the injured Josh Hodgson.
It is the only change to the team that survived a torrid late onslaught to beat Tonga in last Saturday’s semi-final in Auckland.
Roby, who won his 30th cap at Mount Smart Stadium, is the only other specialist hooker in head coach Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad and will be expected to play long minutes at the Suncorp Stadium.
Instead of opting for Stefan Ratchford or George Williams to provide back-up, Bennett will now hope Roby can get through most, if not all, of Saturday’s game.
Heighington played in England’s opening two matches of the World Cup against Australia and Lebanon but sat out the last group game against France as well as the two knock-out games so far.
Captain Sean O’Loughlin has been named in the team as he battles to shake off a quad injury sustained in the semi-final.
Australia’s Gerard Sutton will referee the final, with England’s Ben Thaler appointed as video referee.
Sutton, who was in charge of the first semi-final between Australia and Fiji, got the nod over fellow countryman Matt Cecchin, who attracted a host of criticism for failing to referee Andrew Fifita’s late disallowed try to the video referee during England’s Tonga game.
Englishman Chris Kendall will be a touch judge at the Suncorp Stadium.
Rugby League World Cup head of officiating, Tony Archer, said: “It was obviously a difficult decision to pick the referee for the final after Matt Cecchin’s and Gerry’s excellent performances in the semi-finals and throughout the tournament but I’m confident were have chosen the right person to do job.
“I’ve been very satisfied with the performances of our officials and we will certainly continue to see the benefits of having the opportunity to bring refs together from the northern and southern hemispheres into camp and learn from each other in such an environment for the first time.
“It has allowed us not to just deliver high level of officiating in this tournament but to also bring in some younger refs with a view of progressing to the 2020-21 Rugby League World Cup.”
Team: G Widdop (St George Illawarra); J McGillvary (Huddersfield), K Watkins (Leeds), J Bateman (Wigan), R Hall (Leeds); K Brown (Warrington), L Gale (Castleford); C Hill (Warrington), J Roby (St Helens), J Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), S Burgess (South Sydney), E Whitehead (Canberra), S O’Loughlin (Wigan, capt).
Interchange: A Walmsley (St Helens), B Currie (Warrington), T Burgess (South Sydney), C Heighington (Cronulla).