SYDNEY // The Leeds forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan is determined to make his mark in the World Cup. The second row forward had to wait until the last match of the Test series against New Zealand last year to make his Great Britain debut and he sat out England's opening two pool A matches in Townsville and Melbourne. But he has been named in coach Tony Smith's 19-man squad for tomorrow's final group game against the Kiwis in Newcastle and looks certain to make the cut.
"I'm looking forward to a game big time," he said. "As a rugby league player, that's what we're here for. If I get a game I'll be buzzing and I'll make the most of my opportunity. I don't just want to be a stop-gap, I want to get in there and do my best and make sure that I can hold my own." Smith is ringing the changes for a game perceived as a "dead rubber", with both sides almost certain to face each other in the first semi-final in Brisbane a week later regardless of the result at Energy Australia Stadium.
He has decided to rest the St Helens trio of James Graham, James Roby and Ade Gardner while two of their club-mates, Maurie Fa'asavalu and Jon Wilkin are injured. The Samoa-born Fa'asavalu broke a finger during England's 52-4 defeat by Australia has been ruled out of the rest of the World Cup campaign. That leaves just full-back Paul Wellens and stand-off Leon Pryce, at best, to represent Saints, while Jones-Buchanan is one of eight players in the 19 from champions Leeds.
The captain Jamie Peacock and Adrian Morley are the only specialist props in the squad, which is likely to mean Jones-Buchanan having to share the workload in the front row. Mickey Higham is the only logical replacement for Roby at hooker while Lee Smith will take over from Gardner on the wing and both will have the chance to press their claims for places in the semi-final side. Kiwi boss Stephen Kearney has also decided to rotate his squad, with New Zealand Warriors prop Evarn Tuimavave set to make his debut in place of rested skipper Nathan Cayless. Melbourne back rower Jeremy Smith takes over the captaincy.
New Zealand will be aiming to erase the memory of last year's series whitewash and Jones-Buchanan admits they may be spurred by the prospect of revenge. "Yes I think so," he said. "They will want to show they are a better side. They are on their own turf in a way. A lot of the guys play in the NRL so it is all familiar territory for them." Second rower Gareth Ellis, who will be playing in the NRL in 2009 with Wests Tigers, is keen to keep his place after the humiliating defeat by Australia and insists the group game is important.
"People are saying there isn't much in this game but there is to us as a team," he said. "We didn't perform to our standards and we'd like to get back to bigger and better things in the way that we play." The Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield also believes there will be no holding back in tomorrow's match, with players from both sides keen to secure semi-final spots. "Both teams want the win and both will go for it," he said.
"At the end of the day, there's places up for grabs for both teams. There is a lot at stake for both teams." Meanwhile the Fiji captain Wes Naiqama insists his side can handle the challenge of playing a third match in just 10 days against buoyant Ireland on Monday. Fiji gave themselves a chance of making the semi-finals by topping Pool Two despite losing 18-16 to Scotland on Wednesday. Naiqama admits their clash with the Irish will not be easy but believes his side can make the last four.
* PA Sport