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Purdham to captain England
Harlequins RL loose forward Rob Purdham will captain England in the Federation Shield, which gets under way in Leeds on Sunday.
"It?s a massive honour," he said. "I was a bit surprised to be chosen but it?s a real honour. This will be the highlight of my career."
Leeds Rhinos hooker Matt Diskin has been made vice-captain, partly as reward for answering the call following the withdrawal of Mark Gleeson and Wayne Godwin through injury.
Paul Cullen, who succeeded former Great Britain prop Karl Harrison as England head coach, has opted for two of the most experienced players in his 19-strong squad, which is likely to be bolstered by the return of Great Britain?s stand-by players in Australia after this weekend.
Cullen said: "Rob is captain of his club side and has the respect of his peers.
"In the position we expect him to play, whether it?s stand-off, loose forward or centre, the kid is going to be on the field for 80 minutes."
Purdham will face two of his Harlequins team-mates when England play Tonga in their second match at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday, October 29.
Tonga need to win to earn automatic selection, while unbeaten Samoa will also qualify if they avoid defeat by seven points or more. In that case Fiji would go into the repechage in a bid to secure the 10th place.
"It?s incredibly tight and I?m sure it?s going to make it an extremely competitive match," said Richard Lewis, vice-chairman of the Rugby League International Federation at today?s launch.
"The Federation Shield is viewed as crucial by all the teams in the build-up to the 2008 World Cup in Australia."