England playmaker Kevin Brown and star forward Sam Burgess have both passed fitness tests and are right as rain for Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup semi- final against Tonga, assistant coach Denis Betts says.
The Warrington-based Brown, the beneficiary of linchpin Gareth Widdop’s fullback switch, suffered a head knock in last week’s 36-6 win over Papua New Guinea.
He was duly named in the matchday XVII for this weekend’s semi-final in Auckland, but needed to pass concussion protocols during the week.
- James Graham believes Tonga shouldn’t be referred to as a ‘tier-two team’
- Wayne Bennett backs Kiwis to rebound from disastrous World Cup
Betts told reporters he had done so and would play against Mate Ma’a, while Burgess – named in the second row – had overcome an ankle issue.
“Kevin’s fit, he’s always been fit, never in doubt – just had to run through the protocols at this point. He’s been really good all week, and Sam’s been great – we’ve been really fortunate at the moment, got a full squad training,” Betts said.
“All the stuff we’ve put in place now that the game’s trying to protect people with, we’ve put (Brown) through those things, he’s got the all-clear.”
Betts backed the 33-year-old Brown to shine against a bustling Tonga, having coached the veteran stand-off and named him captain at Widnes.
Brown moved to Super League big guns Warrington for the start of the 2017 campaign, but couldn’t help the Cestrians finish higher than ninth.
He’ll join Castleford star Luke Gale in the halves for Saturday’s match, with his game management and experience to prove crucial.
“He’s had some ups and downs in his career and he’s been through the mill, in the international side, out of the side, fought his way back in,” Betts said.
“He’s always been a big player that can turn up in a big game and put big plays on.”