The England forward is relishing tackling the Tongans
England are determined to seize a glorious opportunity to reach their first World Cup final for 22 years, says forward Tom Burgess.
Instead of taking on New Zealand in Saturday’s semi-final at Mount Smart Stadium, as was expected at the start of the tournament, England must avoid another giant-killing act from Tonga if they are to play in their first final since 1995.
Australia await the winners in the final next Saturday after the defending champions thrashed Fiji 54-6 in the first semi-final.
England were denied by New Zealand in the semi-finals four years ago and Burgess, who was a non-playing member of the squad that day at Wembley, admits there is pressure to justify their status as favourites against Tonga.
It was the Kiwis who denied England in the semi-finals four years ago and Burgess, who was a non-playing member of the squad that day at Wembley, admits there is pressure to justify their status as favourites against Tonga.
“There’s not been much talk of 2013 specifically but it’s about the opportunity that’s in front of us and we want to take it,” the South Sydney prop said.
“You can feel it in your guts, what’s at stake. It’s a big occasion. England have been here before and failed. We want to do well for each other and the fans and everyone back home watching. We’re all pretty pumped.”
Burgess is relishing the challenge of tackling a Tongan side that topped the Kiwis in the group stages, thanks largely to the efforts of NRL stars Jason Taumalolo and Andrew Fifita, their most high-profile defectors.
“They’re both leaders for their teams,” he said. “They’re very strong, hard to put down and they get their team going forward.”
The match in Auckland is a 30,000 sell-out, ensuring the biggest crowd for a rugby league game at the ground since 1995, and the vast majority will be cheering on Tonga.
Assistant coach Denis Betts, who was the last man to lead England into a World Cup final, played at Mount Smart for the Auckland Warriors from the start of their existence in 1995 and says the tourists will thrive in the red-hot atmosphere.
“You want it to feel like a hostile environment where we have to really put our games on the line,” Betts said. “It’s exciting for me and I’m not playing.”
Veteran stand-off Kevin Brown will take his place in the team after passing all the required head tests and with second rower Sam Burgess also proving his fitness after turning an ankle against the Kumuls, England head coach Wayne Bennett is able to field an unchanged team.
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