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Match Preview: England vs France

England backrower Mike McMeekan is using both the despair and jubilation endured with club side Castleford to help drive England’s pursuit of hoisting the Paul Barrière Trophy.

The 23-year-old was an integral cog in Castleford’s claim of the League Leader’s Shield in Super League this season, but was also there on grand final day when they fell to Leeds.

Those results have spurred his own year on into international duty, and he believes Sunday’s match against France presents a cardinal opportunity to help England kick-start what they came to Australia to do – win the World Cup.

“I had a good year with Castleford winning some silverware for the club,” he said.

“Obviously I was disappointed not getting Super League trophy at the end, but it’s something that now going onto the international stage – makes you hungry for more silverware and putting in good performances for your country.

That’s always been our [England’s] aim since the very beginning, ever since we met up earlier in the year in February.

”Our aim was always to be competing for silverware in this competition.”

The Lions return to Perth for the final Pool A match after their pre-tournament training camp on the west coast of Australia and will be looking to secure the best possible quarter-final birth.

McMeekan will make his first World Cup appearance against France after debuting for England in the Pacific Test against Samoa earlier in the year.

He’ll be joined Mark Percival, Kevin Brown, and Scott Taylor after coach Wayne Bennet made wholesale changes to the side which appeared in the first two matches, including shifting half Gareth Widdop back to fullback for the first time since the 2010 Four Nations. 

“Picking up the win last week was good, it gave us the opportunity for a bit of rotation this week,” McMeekan said.

“It’s a chance for people who haven’t been playing to set a benchmark and set their claim for putting their name up next week.”

While many lamented England’s meek win over Lebanon last weekend and will be expecting them to overcome France with ease, McMeekan thinks it will certainly be no cakewalk.

“It was a victory [Lebanon}, two points, which we really needed,” he said.

“To get two points against a Lebanon side, you can’t take anything away from them. They competed for 80 minutes and I think people thought it would be a walkover, but we knew they wouldn’t be.

“Sunday’s game will be a tough game against a French side – who are an extremely physical side.”

France will be hoping to cause a boil over in what shapes as their last chance of remaining in the competition.

They’ll need to beat England and hope Lebanon receive a thumping from Australia to reduce the Cedar’s point differential advantage and current hold of third position on the Pool A ladder. 

Having conceded an average of 44.2 points across their past five World Cup matches and not won a match since they beat PNG 9-8 in the first week of the 2013 tournament, it will be some effort if they can match it with England.

Hooker Eloi Pelissier has been sent home for disciplinary reasons, allowing London Broncos rake John Boudebza to start at No. 9.

Coach Aurélien Cologni has also brought Damien Cardace, Lucas Albert and Antoni Maria back into the side after they were overlooked for the Australian game.

It will be the last match of the final Pool rounds, but the clash between these two old rivals at the Perth Rectangular Stadium could throw up more than many will be anticipating.

Max McKinney | @MaxMckinney
Rugby League World Cup 2017 Correspondent

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