Wales v England: McNamara says favourites tag is alien

Coach Steve McNamara says being favourites for a tournament will provide different pressure for England.

Australia and New Zealand have dominated recent World Cups and Tri/Four Nations, but England are expected to win an Autumn Internationals series that includes France and Saturday's opponents Wales.

McNamara said: "It is alien for us to begin a competition as favourites.

"We will judge ourselves by what we want to achieve not the opposition."

England travel to Wrexham to play a Welsh side that lost 20-6 to France in the tournament opener last weekend.

McNamara's men take on France on the following Saturday, before the top two teams in the round-robin group meet in the final in Salford on 11 November.

"We respect Wales, who have some very good players," continued McNamara, who confirmed on Wednesday that he will hand debuts to Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker and Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum.

"They have had some good players in the past and have a crop of young players now who will grow."

McNamara is without the last two Super League men of steel, with Sam Tomkins and Rangi Chase both injured.

In addition, Danny McGuire, Eorl Crabtree, Gareth Widdop and Ryan Atkins are also unavailable through injury and James Graham is banned for biting Billy Slater in the NRL Grand Final.

But the former Bradford coach says that the players are feeling the benefits of altitude training in South Africa following the conclusion of the Super League season.

"These players have gone 27 rounds, five Challenge Cup games and World Club Challenge for most of them," said McNamara.

"Our job at the end of the next season is to get them in the best physical and mental shape as we can to go and win the World Cup.

"We've practised that this year and definitely we will see some positive results from it albeit by maybe tweaking some things."

The clash with Wales will see Leeds' Kevin Sinfield begin his role as England captain following the international retirement of James Peacock.

"I feel huge pride," said Sinfield. "To lead your country at anything is a fantastic achievement.

"It's nice for my family and everyone who has played a part in my career along the way. Ultimately, though, I'm fully focused on playing well and giving my best for the team.

"I'm looking forward to the game and the challenge Wales pose."


Wales (probable): D James (South Wales); E Kear (Bradford), M Channing (London Broncos), C Roets (North Wales), R Massam (North Wales); D Jones (Keighley), M Seamark (Wynnum Manly); G Dudson (Wigan), N Budworth (Mackay), C Kopczak (Huddersfield, capt), R Lloyd (Wigan), B Evans (Warrington), B Flower (Wigan). Subs: R Pugsley (Wigan), J James (Salford), D Fleming (Castleford), C Moss (Keighley).

England (probable): Z Hardaker (Leeds); J Charnley (Wigan), K Watkins (Leeds), L Cudjoe (Huddersfield) or C Ablett (Leeds), R Hall (Leeds); K Sinfield (Leeds, capt), R Myler (Warrington); C Hill (Warrington), M McIlorum (Wigan), L Mossop (Wigan), G Ellis (Wests Tigers), G Hock (Wigan), S O'Loughlin (Wigan). Subs: A Morley (Warrington), R Burrow (Leeds), B Harrison (Warrington), J Jones-Buchanan (Leeds).

Referee: T Alibert (France).