Steve McNamara believes his England side are on the verge of some “really big performances” – starting in Hull tomorrow.
He has made three changes for the game against Fiji at KC Stadium with South Sydney Rabbitohs prop Tom Burgess, St Helens hooker James Roby and Melbourne Storm half-back Gareth Widdop all rested.
Ex-Bradford Bulls forward Sam Burgess is back after he sat out the Ireland match with a one-match suspension, while Wigan Warriors prop Lee Mossop also returns after missing that 42-0 victory.
Wigan’s Michael McIlorum, too, is drafted into the squad for the first time in the tournament with the Leeds-born hooker set to start.
There is no recall, though, for Wigan winger Josh Charnley, Super League’s top try scorer in each of the last two seasons.
That means Tom Briscoe – the Hull FC winger who joins Leeds Rhinos after the World Cup –seems to have done enough with his two-try performance against the Irish to nudge ahead in the fascinating battle for that spot.
He, then, gets to play on familiar territory once more before making that switch to West Yorkshire.
After a narrow loss to Australia and the emphatic victory over the Irish, McNamara is eager for England to finish their Group A obligations with an impressive win and set up a quarter-final against either Samoa or France.
“I get the feeling the group are on the verge of some really big performances and this will be one of them,” he said.
“We are coming up against opposition we respect. We have so far seen a Fiji team that is very exciting to watch with some brilliant outside backs.
“They have a set of forwards that are as physical as any team in the tournament. I can see why people see them as a threat on Saturday.
“Across their team, the vast majority of their players are regular starters in the NRL and they are used to this level of intensity.
“But the aim for us is gradual progression. We are looking to improve each week.
“It’s important to win against teams around you, but at some point you have to make sure all elements that have been positive in every game come together aiming for that complete performance.
“If we’re going to win the World Cup that has to happen.”
There is surprise at Widdop’s “resting” however; the Halifax-born stand-off has played just two 20-minute spells in the last two games. It does mean, though, that Leeds’ Rob Burrow gets a deserved shot, probably making his first appearance of this World Cup off the bench.
England squad: Ablett, Briscoe, G Burgess, S Burgess, Burrow, Chase, Cudjoe, Farrell, Ferres, Graham, Hall, Hill, McIlorum, Mossop, O’Loughlin, Sinfield, Tomkins, Watkins, Westwood.