England v Tonga preview

Centre Ryan Atkins retains his place in the England team for Sunday?s Federation Shield Final against Tonga at the Halton Stadium, Widnes (Kick off 3.30pm).

The Wakefield Trinity Wildcat staked his claim for selection in the Final with a hat-trick of tries and a Man-of-the-Match performance in England?s 38-14 win over Samoa in Hull last Sunday.

Ashley Gibson of Leeds Rhinos moves from the centres to take over at hooker from his clubmate Matt Diskin, who has a leg injury.

Wigan?s Chris Ashton, who started as fullback against Samoa after being on the interchange bench for the first two rounds in the tournament, is given the number one jersey while Leeds Rhinos back row forward Jamie Jones Buchanan returns to the second row after missing the Samoan game following the birth of his son.

Skipper Rob Purdham makes his fourth positional switch of the tournament moving back to the centre where he will partner Ryan Atkins. He has previously played at centre, stand off and loose forward.

Paul Cullen, the England Head Coach, said: ?Throughout the tournament all the players in the squad have been given an opportunity to earn selection and we have gone for the players who have demonstrated the best form.

?Although we are unbeaten in the tournament so far, we recognise that Tonga have been improving. Their only defeat was against us at Twickenham Stoop and since then they have achieved an impressive victory in France.

?To win so convincingly in France demonstrates their potential and we shall have to be at our best if we are going to overcome them on Sunday.

?Ashley Gibson is normally recognised as a centre but he ably filled in when Matt Diskin went off so I have every confidence that he will do a good job for us in the front row against Tonga?.

Harlequins RL forward Solomon Haumono had to miss Tonga?s decisive Federation Shield win over France last Sunday because he had flown to Australia to get married.

But now that Tonga are facing hosts England in Sunday?s inaugural Federation Shield Final, he will jet back across the world to play in the big game.

Haumono left the Tongan squad immediately following their 40-18 defeat by England at the Twickenham Stoop Stadium on October 29 but indicated that if Tonga reached the Final he would consider flying back.

William Edwards, the Tongan squad manager, said: ?Solomon telephoned to congratulate the boys on winning in France.

?While he was on the line we asked him if would like to be part of the team for the Final against England and he jumped at the chance. He?ll be back with us on Friday.

?He?s been recognised as our captain for quite some time but it?ll be up to our coach Jim Dymock whether he returns to that role in the Final. For the moment we?re just overjoyed that Solomon is able to come back for this important game.?

Added Edwards: ?I spoke to Solomon?s new wife, Margaret, about the situation and she was happy for him to come back to Great Britain.

?We all realise that Solomon is coming towards the end of his career and she understood what playing in the match and for Tonga means to him?.

Dymock is expected to name a team similar to that which played against England in London for the Final although they have still to check the fitness of centre Andrew Emilio.

Federationn Shield Final, Engalnd v Tonga, Sunday November 12 2006, Halton Stadium Widnes 3pm.

England team:
Chris Ashton (Wigan Warriors);
David Hodgson (Salford City Reds),
Rob Purdham (Harlequins RL and captain),
Ryan Atkins (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats),
Mark Calderwood (Wigan Warriors);
Paul Cooke (Hull FC),
Jamie Rooney (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats);
Eorl Crabtree (Huddersfield Giants),
Ashley Gibson (Leeds Rhinos),
Ryan Bailey (Leeds Rhinos),
Lee Radford (Hull FC),
Jamie Jones Buchanan (Leeds Rhinos),
Brett Ferres (Bradford Bulls).

Lee Smith (Leeds Rhinos),
Ewan Dowes (Hull FC),
Graeme Horne (Hull FC),
Nick Scruton (Leeds Rhinos).

Likely Tongan team:
Fetuli Talanoa (South Sydney)
Makasini Richter (Western Suburbs)
Andrew Emelio (Canterbury Bulldogs)
Tyrone Smith (London Harlequins)
'Etuate (Tonga) Uaisele (Parramatta)
(Ali) Feleti Mateo (Parramatta)
Joel Taufa'ao (South Sydney)
Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta)
Eliakim Uasi (Counties Manukau NZ)
Solomon Haumono (London Harlequins)
Lopini Paea (Sydney Roosters)
Richard Fa'aoso (Castleford Tigers)
Willie Tupou (St George-Illawarra)

Mickey Paea (Sydney Roosters)
Taniela Tuiaki (Wests Tigers)
Samuela Moa (Wests Tigers)
Lelea Paea (Sydney Roosters)
Sione Foliaki (Vaini Doves)
Joe Falemaka (South Sydney)

Source: www.therlf.co.uk