Rugby League World Cup: England v Papua New Guinea – ‘brutal’ challenge ahead for hosts


Place: DW Stadium, Wigan Date: November 5, Saturday Start: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and online; Listen to Radio 5 Sports Extra; Live text and highlights on the BBC Sport website and app

“I’ve played Papua New Guinea twice and both times I’ve been knocked unconscious before half-time.”

Former England international Kevin Brown Shaun Wane’s men know the challenge they face at the Rugby League World Cup.

When the players face Papua New Guinea, they know it will be one of the most physical games of their career.

England got through the World Cup squad as expected, but the hard work begins now for Wane’s side.

The Championship hosts comfortably won all three of their pool matches, amassing 196 points in the process to reach the quarter-finals, where they will face the Kumuls in Wigan on Saturday.

BBC Sport spoke to two members of the England squad that reached the 2017 World Cup final – Brown and the BBC’s Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary – To get a first-hand view of dealing with “brutal” PNG.

“PNGs are physical but also smart”

PNG, who lost to Tonga but from Group D after wins over the Cook Islands and Wales, will dominate with their big lead.

Brown: “England have a huge task. I think PNG is the best side I’ve seen. Quality is all in this team, they’ve always had that ferocity and physicality and I can vouch for that.

“When they put on that PNG shirt, something changes in those players. They grow inches and get stronger. They seem to throw more. What they have this year is technical brilliance, pace and intelligence as well. It’s not physical, but it emphasizes the wild nature on which they base their game. has

“Lachlan Lam adds another dimension and Leopards team-mate Edwin Ipape Leigh is quick and elusive to get the machine out of the middle. They’ve got a combination of threats. Alex Johnston scored 30 tries in South Sydney’s last NRL season.”

McGillvary: “This England team has shown great line speed in defense so far and that will hold them in good stead. PNG will come out flying but England will have to deal with that and make some turnovers. It will be close to start but England will blow them up as the games go on.

“This England team is outstanding. It has great balance, with youth, experience and quality. It’s one of the best England teams I’ve seen in recent times. You can see what Shaun Wane is working on with his team, the meters they make and how they stifle teams.”

“Put your chin up and bite your gum line”

Brown was beaten twice by PNG players during his international career

This will be the fourth international meeting between the two sides, England in the first three meetings in 2008, 2010 and five years ago at the same stage of this competition.

But PNG, the only country in the world with rugby league as its national sport, were victorious when they played the Great Britain Lions on the 2019 tour.

Brown: “Assistant coach Brian Smith showed us videos before the 2010 game of what PNG are capable of, but the arrogance in my head made me think, ‘It’s not going to be that bad.’I went into the game and took a horizontal flyer to the face.

“When I woke up after the game, I thought, ‘Brian underestimated that, it was worse than I thought.’ that they will come to you.”

McGillvary: “That game in 2019 was one of the most physical games I’ve been a part of in my life. The environment was hostile with people, and the players gave us physicality. They were a different animal that day; the energy they brought was much higher than ours.

“On Saturday, this England pack has to match that energy and go beyond. They have to put them to bed early on. It was a very tough game in 2019. We didn’t throw in the towel; we just weren’t good enough.”

“Young and Radley are dying”

England have stepped up with the addition of three NRL players who have added an extra edge to the squad.

Newcastle Knights wing Dominic Young was one of the stars of the tournament with eight tries, while Brisbane Broncos center Herbie Farnworth and Sydney Roosters loose forward Victor Radley also impressed.

Brown: “NRL players make a huge difference and they’re all English lads. They’ve gone to Australia and tested themselves. The lad left Huddersfield and people thought it was a crazy move but he’s cracked it there and now he’s a superstar.

“It’s the same with Herbie Farnworth. Wigan wanted to sign him but he left the country and he’s done well. Victor Radley is a superstar of the NRL game and he deserves it. He could have played well in Australia later on. Down the line.

“Shaun Wane’s headaches are great because he has a lot of quality players to choose from, but those three in particular give the rest of the team confidence.”

McGillvary: “Young and Radley are dying. Radley is one of the best loose forwards in the world, a lot of good things come out of him offensively and defensively. He’s one of the best additions England have had in recent years.

“Not only against PNG, but he will be important if England win the World Cup. If he suffers an injury, he will have a big impact on the team. He sets the tone for the defense and joins the line in attack. . He is tough, but also a smart player.”

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