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England relief over Westwood
England coach Steve McNamara was a relieved man in South Africa after discovering he will have his tough-tackling forward Ben Westwood available for the start of the World Cup.
The Warrington second rower was given a one-match ban for the punch that broke the sinus of Wigan stand-off Blake Green during the opening stages of the Wolves' 30-16 defeat in Saturday's Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Westwood, who admitted the grade B offence at a disciplinary hearing conducted via a video link from the England team hotel in Potchefstroom, will be able to serve the ban when England play a warm-up match against Italy at the Salford City Stadium on Saturday, October 19.
It means he will be free to face Australia in the opening match of the World Cup at the Millennium Stadium a week later.
McNamara might well be happy to give Westwood a rest after he played in all but two of his club's 34 matches in 2013 as well as the mid-season international against the Exiles.
The coach will use the Italy game to give much-needed match practice to the players who were not involved in the Super League play-offs like Gareth Hock (Widnes) and Rangi Chase (Castleford), who will get an early chance to play on what will be their home ground in 2014 after signing for the Red Devils.
The three Burgess brothers, Sam, Tom and George, are also highly likely to get their first hit-outs since their club, South Sydney, went out of the NRL play-offs last month.
Westwood, who missed last year's autumn international series with knee and groin injuries and won the last of his 21 caps against Australia in the final of the 2011 Four Nations Series, looks sure to be part of McNamara's line-up to face the Kangaroos.
Despite some concern over his relatively poor disciplinary record, England will need his aggression if they are to combat the physical threat of the Australians.
England's 24-strong squad will return from their high-altitude training camp next Wednesday, three days before the game against Italy.