AAP Rugby

England ready to scale heights in Denver

By AAP Newswire

England's players are confident they can adjust to the effects of playing at altitude before running out at Denver's Mile High Stadium.

The bulk of Wayne Bennett's squad have spent four days in Colorado and had two training sessions in the build-up to the mid-season Test against New Zealand.

"A few of the boys have been saying they have felt the altitude a little bit," prop Tom Burgess said.

"It didn't feel too bad at training, probably just the cobwebs from the flight and the game the previous week. I'm sure it will do us the world of good."

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire says he has noticed his players finding more distance with their goal kicks and England kicker Gareth Widdop admits the high altitude could be a factor in the game.

"I had a little kick and it certainly does seem to travel a lot further than usual," he said.

"It is probably something we'll have to watch throughout the game."

Widdop was at fullback in England's last match, the World Cup final which they lost 6-0 to Australia but will move into the halves on Saturday alongside Jonny Lomax in the absence of injured duo Luke Gale and George Williams.

Lomax, too, played at fullback in the World Cup but has been playing in the halves for St Helens this year because of the presence of Ben Barba, while the Halifax-born Widdop plays five eighth for St George Illawarra.

"I suppose any combination takes a little getting used to," Widdop said.

"We've played together in the past, not as halves but he's been playing really well for St Helens.

"We'll do as much work as we can and hopefully it clicks at the weekend."

The re-shuffle will mean Stefan Ratchford winning his fifth cap for England at fullback, the position in which he has excelled for Warrington.

Ratchford played in World Cup group games against Lebanon and France and after missing the final is delighted to be back in the fold.

"To be back in the squad at the first opportunity is a massive honour and I'd be happy to play anywhere to get in the 17, whether that's starting fullback or another position or whether it's coming off the bench," he said.

"There's lots of quality options available at fullback. I played there mid-season, Jonny started the World Cup campaign there and Gareth finished it there."

Meanwhile, the England players gained an insight into American sport after being invited to take part in batting practice ahead of the baseball match between the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets at Coors Field in Denver.

"It was good fun," said Sam Burgess.

"The Colorado coach was very relaxed and let us into practice to hit a few balls. I struck the ball pretty good."