NEWCASTLE // St Helens forwards Maurie Fa'asavalu and Jon Wilkin have both been ruled out of England's final Rugby League World Cup Pool A match against New Zealand on Saturday. Prop Fa'asavalu has a suspected broken hand while second-rower Wilkin sustained facial bruising during England's 52-4 mauling by Australia on Sunday.
While Wilkin is expected to be available for the semi-final - which is almost certain to be against the Kiwis a week later - Samoa-born Fa'asavalu is awaiting a specialist's report and is in danger of being ruled out of the tournament. "His scans have been sent to a specialist in the UK and the doctor is waiting for his reply as to what action needs to be taken but we do feel there is a fracture in one of his fingers," said coach Tony Smith.
The loss of Fa'asavalu leaves Smith's squad with just three specialist props but the coach is confident Jamie Peacock, Adrian Morley and James Graham can carry the fight to the Kiwis. "We're going with three specialist props this week, with no intention of anybody else playing there," he said. "However, they can if need be. We've got some players who can play that position." With little riding on the outcome of Saturday's game, Smith may be tempted to rest some of his players and give run-outs to the fringe members of the squad but he was giving little away.
He said: "In all honesty, we haven't decided entirely yet. We're watching them in training and we're watching their reactions. "We've got some ideas but we don't want to make decisions straight away. "We have to consider whether to add some fresh people in there to freshen things up." England have been berated by the media both back home and in Australia but Smith is adamant that there were positives to take from his side's record World Cup defeat to the Kangaroos.
"We've reviewed it and we won't forget it by any means but you hope to learn from it," he said. "We've learnt some pretty good lessons this week and I'm sure we'll be better for it. "The scoreline wasn't pleasant for any of us but there were plenty of good things. Meanwhile Harlequins forward Gareth Haggerty hopes a lightweight Ireland pack can run rings around their heavyweight Samoan opponents in today's World Cup Pool C decider at Parramatta.
The Irish were pipped 22-20 by Tonga in their opening game but they will progress to the knockout stages if they beat their Pacific island rivals by more than six points in their final group match. In today's other game Scotland are desperate to break their World Cup duck and they need to beat Fiji by 28 points to secure aplace in next week's qualifier. * PA Sport