sport

McIlorum looking to seize chance

Michael McIlorum is determined to make the most of his last chance to stake a claim for a place in England's World Cup plans.

McIlorum has been in the shadows of James Roby since switching allegiance from Ireland, but got his opportunity when the St Helens hooker decided to take a short break from the international game.

The Warriors' number nine, who missed the end of the Super League season through suspension, made his England debut in the opening game of the autumn international series against Wales and is set to keep his spot for Sunday's final against France at the Salford City Stadium.

With Leeds scrum-half turned hooker Rob Burrow pushing him, McIlorum accepts the competition for places in the England team is stiff, but he is the man currently in possession of the jersey.

"It's a good opportunity for me and Rob as well," McIlorum said. "James plays lot of games for 80 minutes so it's been tough for a lot of English hookers.

"But I've been given my chance and it's up to me to show what I can do.

"I had a bit of time off with my ban but I'm back into the swing of things now and getting my match fitness back up."

McIlorum, 24, played in all three of Ireland's matches in the 2008 World Cup in Australia, where they lost out to Fiji in a semi-final eliminator, but is now hoping to face both of those teams next year.

England are in the same group as Ireland and the Fijians, as well as Australia, for the preliminary stages of the 2013 World Cup.

That could cause some family friction but the Leeds-born McIlorum says his belated England selection justified his decision to risk incurring the wrath of his proud Irish grandad.

"He's just happy to see me play," McIlorum said. "I enjoyed my time with Ireland. I was only 19 or 20 at the time and it was a big opportunity for me.

"I wouldn't change it for the world. It was a good tournament and it helped me as a player and as a person. It would be good to play against them next year."

The autumn international series for England is all about preparing for the World Cup and McIlorum believes the high-altitude training camp in South Africa was a step in the right direction.

"It put us in good stead for this tournament," he said. "This is a stepping stone for the World Cup and all the group are enjoying being in each other's company.

"We are getting used to playing with each other and getting some cohesion."

McNamara has delayed finalising his team as he waits for a "series of niggles" to clear up.

The England players, who leave their Loughborough camp today, have not yet been told the team and, with no stipulation from tournament organisers, McNamara is likely to keep his line-up under wraps until an hour before kick-off.

Among those still to prove their fitness is Wigan captain and loose forward Sean O'Loughlin, who missed last Saturday's 44-6 win over France in Hull with a hamstring injury.

At least there is no repeat of the illness that afflicted South Sydney prop Luke Burgess a week ago, but French duo Mathias Pala and Eloi Pelissier were laid low earlier this week at their team's Manchester hotel by a stomach bug.

Lezignan second rower Andrew Bentley's hopes of a recall for Les Tricolores were dashed when he was handed a two-match ban for foul play in the French Elite league last weekend, but replacements Julian Bousquet and Teddy Sadaoui have linked up with the rest of the squad.

France coach Aurelien Cologni will meet New Zealand referee Shane Rehm and RFL director of match officials Stuart Cummings tomorrow in a bid to iron out what he believes were differences in interpretation during last Saturday's defeat by England at Craven Park.