By John Davidson, Date: 22/11/17 (Photo Credit NRLPhotos)
Date: Saturday November 25th 2017 TV Kick-off time: 6pm NZDT (Local Time)
TV Kick-off time Brisbane: (Australia – Queensland) Friday, 24 November 2017 at 7:00:00 pm AEST
TV Kick-off time Sydney: (Australia – New South Wales) Saturday, 25 November 2017 at 4:00:00 pm AEDT
TV Kick-off time Perth: (Australia – Western Australia) Saturday, 25 November 2017 at 1:00:00 pm AWST
TV Kick-off time Nukualofa: (Tonga) Saturday, 25 November 2017 at 6:00:00 pm TOT
TV Kick-off time London: (United Kingdom – England) Saturday, 25 November 2017 at 5:00:00 am GMT
TV Kick-off time Port Moresby: (Papua New Guinea) Saturday, 25 November 2017 at 3:00:00 pm PGT
Five-eighth Kevin Brown has been controversially named in England’s team to face Tonga in the semi-finals despite suffering a concussion against Papua New Guinea.
Brown was brought off the field at half-time in the quarter-final after sustaining a head knock in Melbourne. The Warrington playmaker has sustained several head knocks throughout his career.
But Brown has been named to start alongside Luke Gale in the halves in Auckland. Wayne Bennett has stuck with the team that defeated the Kumuls, but Jonny Lomax has joined the full 21-man squad.
England have looked their best in this World Cup with Widdop at fullback and Brown and Gale in the halves. Sam Burgess made a successful return from injury in the quarter-final.
For Tonga Kristian Woolf has only made a handful of changes for the semi-final. Siliva Havili will start at hooker with Sione Katoa moving to the bench. Sio Siua Tuakeiaho will also start in the front-row with Joe Ofahengaue making way. Peni Terepo joins the four-man bench.
Tonga head into the final four in a strong position after going unbeaten in all four group games. They will enjoy strong local support at Mt Smart Stadium.
Bennett has stirred the pot ahead of the semi-final after he criticized the way defectors such as Andrew Fifita and Jason Taumalolo have decided to line up for Tonga.
The veteran coach believes the rules, that allowed them to swap from Australia and New Zealand respectively, need to change.
Tongan hooker Havili said the timing of Bennett’s comments was no coincidence. “
It’s a bit late in the comp to be commenting on that I’d say. He is probably trying to play mind games with us,” Havili said.
“That’s Wayne Bennett… he knows what he’s doing. I’d say that is just mind games.”
Havili described England as the “dark horses” of the World Cup.
“I’d say [this is the biggest challenge so far], they are playing real well, they are the dark horses of the comp and have got strike power all over their whole team,” he said.
“Their halves and their forwards, they have got real big forwards and it’s across the park because their back three are big and strong too. They will have learned a lot from the Kiwis game, they will look at our defence and see what they can come up with to break it.”
Match officials – Referee: Matt Cecchin; touch judges: Chris Butler, Robert Hicks; video referee: Ben Thaler.
1 Gareth WIDDOP
2 Jermaine MCGILLVARY
3 Kallum WATKINS
4 John BATEMAN
5 Ryan HALL
6 Kevin BROWN
7 Luke GALE
8 Chris HILL
9 Josh HODGSON
10 James GRAHAM
11 Samuel BURGESS
12 Elliott WHITEHEAD
13 Sean O’LOUGHLIN (c)
14 Alex WALMSLEY
15 Thomas BURGESS
16 Ben CURRIE
17 James ROBY
18 Jonny LOMAX
19 Chris HEIGHINGTON
20 Mark PERCIVAL
21 Scott TAYLOR
1 William HOPOATE
2 Daniel TUPOU
3 Michael JENNINGS
4 Konrad HURRELL
5 David FUSITUA
6 Tuimoala LOLOHEA
7 Mafoa’aeata HINGANO
8 Andrew FIFITA
9 Siliva HAVILI
10 Sio Siua TAUKEIAHO
11 Manu MA’U
12 Sika MANU (c)
13 Jason TAUMALOLO
14 Sione KATOA
15 Peni TEREPO
16 Tevita Pangai JUNIOR
17 Ben MURDOCH-MASILA
18 Sam MOA
19 Manu VATUVEI
20 Joe OFAHENGAUE
21 Samisoni LANGI