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Wednesday 29th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

But England can beat Aussies without him, insists forward Hill

ENGLAND captain Sean O’Loughlin is on the mend before Saturday’s World Cup final, forward Chris Hill said yesterday, insisting he is not irreplaceable.

Head coach Wayne Bennett said O’Loughlin was doubtful after picking up a quad injury during England’s 20-18 semi-final win over Tonga last Saturday, but he has been named in the team to face Australia at Brisbane’s Lang Park.

“He’s doing everything possible to get fit,” said Hill. “I saw him this morning and he’s moving a lot better. We’ve got a couple of days yet, so we’ll wait and see.

“If he doesn’t play, obviously it’s a loss, but that’s why we’ve brought a squad. Someone else will step in.”

Bennett has recalled veteran forward Chris Heighington in the only change to his semi-final line-up. 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.

Roby, who won his 30th cap at Mount Smart Stadium, is the only other specialist hooker in the 24-man squad, but Hill is confident the St Helens number nine will be able to play most, if not all, of Saturday’s game.

“Nothing changes,” the Warrington captain said at a fans’ event in the centre of Brisbane. “Robes can do 80 minutes, he’s done it for 15 years in Super League and he’s done it internationally. He’s more than capable.”

After reaching the final for the first time for 22 years, Bennett’s national side now have the opportunity to carve themselves a slice of history as they seek to pull off the first World Cup triumph since Great Britain lifted the trophy in 1972.

Hill, who has started all five games so far, says the England players are aware of the huge spoils that await them as well as the size of their task.

“It would be a massive boost,” Hill said. “A lot of lads here have made a lot of sacrifices over these last seven weeks.

“We’ll do it for our group and hopefully it has a massive roll-on effect for the English game.

“Everyone is buzzing. I think we’ve improved massively under Wayne.

“Australia are favourites for a reason, they’re on home soil and they’ve won it so many times, but let’s concentrate on ourselves.”

Hill said he has no problems with the final being refereed by an Australian after Gerard Sutton was awarded the game.

“He’ll do his job, whether he’s English, French or from Australia or New Zealand. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Let him get on with his job.”