Rugby League World Cup: Jon Wilkin insists England need to beat Italy
Jon Wilkin believes it is imperative England put in a performance in Saturday's World Cup warm-up against Italy.
Last Updated: 16/10/13 11:09am
Steve McNamara's men kick-off their campaign against favourites Australia in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on October 26, but Italy are first up since the team returned from their training camp in South Africa.
Wilkin, who missed out on McNamara's 24-man squad for the tournament in England and Wales, does not expect the head coach to experiment with their opening match ten days away.
"I don't think England will be pulling any punches when they take on Italy on Saturday in a World Cup warm-up match at Salford," he told the Liverpool Echo.
"The match might officially have the 'friendly' tag attached to it, but I'm sure England coach Steve McNamara will be expecting his players to treat it like a proper Test.
"Although the substitutes rule will be extended to allow the coaches to give more people game time, I don't think experimentation will be especially high on the agenda.
"It's a bit too late for that with the opening World Cup fixture against Australia just a week further down the track. Steve will probably have a strong idea about his starting line-up against the Aussies, particularly how the spine of the team is going to look.
"I expect to see Sam Tomkins at full-back, Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase in the halves and James Roby at hooker but I'm sure there's still scope for players to put their hand up for a place in the team to face the Aussies."
Italy have some quality players of their own in the likes of former Australia international Anthony Minichiello, Craig Gower and Anthony Laffranchi, although Wilkin believes England will have the edge fitness-wise.
"England should have an advantage over the Italians in terms of preparation going into Saturday's game and that may well show on the field.
"The squad has spent some time out in South Africa together on top of the sessions that have been held in this country throughout the year.
"Italy is not a nation that would be synonymous with rugby league in the minds of most people. But they will be able to draw on players with NRL experience who will know how to guide them around the park.
"That said, I would be very surprised if England aren't far too strong for their opponents. The coaching staff will be looking for a committed and ruthless performance.
"It would also be handy if they could avoid injuries. But as we all know by now, in rugby league that's easier said than done."