League: SBW and Inglis ready to face off

By Paul Crawley in Manchester

Billy Slater is expected to play in the final after recovering from his knee injury. Photo / Getty Images
Billy Slater is expected to play in the final after recovering from his knee injury. Photo / Getty Images

Billy Slater's likely return for tomorrow's World Cup final has opened the door for what is shaping up to be the one-on-one showdown of the tournament with Greg Inglis and Sonny Bill Williams set to collide.

The two superstars went head-to-head this week when Williams pipped Inglis for the title as the International Rugby League Player of the Year.

But there is no denying the result of tomorrow's battle will mean more to both men than the most finest individual award in the game.

Slater is expected to run out with the Kangaroos at fullback after overcoming the knee injury that threatened to end his tournament.

And if he does play, Inglis will shift to left centre where he will be marking the Kiwis' star back-rower who has been terrorising teams all tournament down New Zealand's right edge.

Asked this week if he was looking forward to the challenge of confronting the player now ranked the best in the world, Inglis said: "The way Sonny has come back after five years out of the game just shows how much of a talented, skilful person he is.

"You always want to play against the best players in the world.

"Any player you ask will say the same thing and in the end it becomes a challenge because you want to see where you are at."

Depending on which way you look at it, both players had legitimate claims for the International Player of the Year award.

During the first half of the season Inglis was on his own planet playing for South Sydney before he suffered a knee injury in State of Origin three and it has only been in the last couple of weeks that he has shown the type of form he had before the injury.

Meanwhile Williams' season went from strength to strength and the form he was in by the end of it deservedly won him the award.

But with both players now at full fitness, it is going to be interesting to see who comes out on top.

At his rampaging best Inglis is an unstoppable force and perhaps the only player who can rival him is the man who will be standing opposite.

But Slater's fitness was still touch and go yesterday, with the star fullback named in Sheens' 19-man squad but a final decision on his fitness won't be made until an hour before the match.

Slater had a heavy workout on Thursday in match-intensity type conditions and was due to train with the team last night at the captain's run at Old Trafford.

Sheens said he was quietly confident Slater would play but the coach added there was no way he would take any risks if Slater showed the slightest sign that he was less than 100 per cent.

"If he wakes up Saturday morning and he is not okay he is out," Sheens said. "We are not mucking around with this.

"It will ultimately be my call."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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