|Hosts: England Appointment: October 15 to November 19|
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England needed to be at their best against Papua New Guinea – not just because a World Cup semi-final place was on the line, but they also had royalty to watch.
The Princess of Wales was carrying out her duty as RFL godmother, having replaced Prince Harry in the role in February, and was a guest at the game in Wigan.
She rolled out the red carpet for her before kick-off, meeting both groups of players on the pitch and then watching a display from Imperial England in which they smashed the Papuans.
“I’m really happy,” said a beaming Shaun Wane afterwards, who confirmed he would remain in his role as England head coach for another year after the World Cup.
“The first 30 minutes were flawless and PNG had no say in the game. When you look at the conditions, I was so impressed against a team that tries to bend you in half.
“The way they played and played is better than I expected, they gelled quickly, training was smoother than expected and they are very good players who do things very quickly.
“Every day is a real pleasure.”
England ‘will not be underestimated now’
From the first whistle, it was a performance full of aggression and attacking intent that left PNG – who usually do the same to their opponents – unresponsive.
Wane’s men flailed and brutalized the opposition and a merciless scoreline gave them a 38-0 half-time lead which effectively ended the game as a contest.
Asked by BBC Sport if the teams remaining in the competition will take note of the performance, Wane replied: “They will see that we win, obviously.
“I sincerely think we can improve. I know what we can do. We can play better for longer, we will have to. We have to be more intense in training next week.”
At half-time, former England international Jon Wilkin said on BBC One: “In the presence of royalty, England produced a royal performance at the highest level.
“They had exceptional power, speed and attention to detail and it all started with the intensity at the start of the game and England got it right.”
Former England captain Jamie Peacock added: “I think there is real humility in the team. There have been no lost causes.
“There have been times when England have been underestimated, but that won’t happen now.
“You can see it in Shaun Wane’s eyes [that he is smiling on the inside]. So it should be. If they play those first 40 minutes, they will face any team in the world 12 or 18 points ahead.”
Papua New Guinea head coach Stanley Tepend called England ‘the best team they’ve faced’ while captain Rhyse Martin suggested they ‘could go all the way’ .
“I want to be a World Cup winner”
England have never won the World Cup, losing in three finals, including the terrible 6-0 loss to Australia in 2017.
But this team display will give them plenty of confidence as they aim to lift the trophy at home to Old Trafford on November 19.
The centerpiece will probably be against defending champions Australia or 2008 champions New Zealand, but until then a semi-final against Tonga or Samoa awaits you at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium November 12.
Winger Tommy Makinson, who won four consecutive finals for the St Helens club, made history by becoming the first England player to score five tries in a single game.
“It’s a special achievement, but going to London in the semi-finals is going to be even bigger and I can’t wait to be there,” Makinson said.
“We want to be like Clive [Sullivan – Great Britain’s World Cup-winning captain in 1972] and like the men who have achieved something special. To score five tries is good, but I want to be a World Cup winner and we are moving in that direction.”
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