Debutant forward Walmsley aiming to cut down the Cedars

Alex Walmsley.
Alex Walmsley.
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Alex Walmsley says he will be hungrier than ever when he makes a belated Test debut in England’s World Cup group game with Lebanon on Saturday.

The St Helens prop would have played in the opening game against Australia in Melbourne but for illness and admits it was difficult watching from the sidelines as England went down 18-4.

However, he will get his chance against the Cedars at the Sydney Football Stadium and cannot wait.

“It was a tough watch,” Walmsley said. “As a 24-man squad we were really proud of the efforts and team performance we put in against Australia but, as an individual, it was frustrating watching, knowing I should have been playing.

“To miss out was tough to take but it’s made me more hungry to finally get out onto the field. Thankfully I’m good to go now this week.”

Walmsley was put in quarantine to ensure the virus did not spread but his spirits were lifted when his partner Simone arrived with his two-month-old son Atticus.

“That was great, a lift I really needed to be honest after spending so much time in bed looking at the same four walls,” he said.

“At first we weren’t too sure what it was and didn’t know whether it was something that could spread around the camp. The first 24 or 36 hours or so I was locked away in quarantine a bit making sure no-one else got it. It wasn’t nice but it was a great boost to see them and it did cheer me up.”

Walmsley will take the place of the injured Sam Burgess but will start on the bench, with Ben Currie making his first start for England in the second row against a Cedars team with plenty of unknown faces who made history with a maiden World Cup win over France last Sunday.

“Lebanon are a bit of an unknown entity but we’ve watched the game against France and picked up what we needed to,” Walmsley added.

“They’ve got two world-class halves in Robbie Farah and Mitchell Moses and a few more NRL players.

“We’ll give them all the respect they deserve – they had a great win against France and will be up for this game.

“We’ve got to approach it like any other Test and we know it will be a physical game. After that performance against Australia we want to keep building.

“We’re on a bit of a journey and we aim to finish that in the World Cup final.”

Meanwhile, Walmsley has hinted that he would be prepared to consider offers from NRL clubs when he contract with Saints runs out in 12 months’ time.

“I’ve seen the reports and it’s out there,” he said.

“I’ve got 12 months on my contract and I’ve loved my time there.

“I’ve always said it’s up in the air.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone. I’m just concentrating on performing well for England in the World Cup.”

Wigan stand-off George Williams will win his sixth cap for England against Lebanon after receiving a late call-up.

For the second successive week, England head coach Wayne Bennett has been forced to change his line-up on the eve of a World Cup match.

Warrington second rower Ben Currie made his debut last Friday after stepping up to replace Walmsley.

England were coy on the latest mishap but Walmsley’s Saints team-mate, full-back Jonny Lomax, who missed England’s warm-up match with a leg injury carried over from the Super League season, was absent from the captain’s run at the Sydney Football Stadium.

And Williams revealed on his Instagram account that had been presented with his Test match jersey by former England international and Leeds, Wakefield and Hull forward Gareth Ellis and would be proud to wear it against Lebanon.

Other than confirming the call-up of Williams, England declined to elaborate on team selection, fuelling speculation that either Gareth Widdop or utility back Stefan Ratchford were standing by to take over at full-back.