England head coach Shaun Wane has laughed off suggestions that this year’s World Cup has been tilted in favor of the hosts. England face Samoa at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday for a place in the final the following weekend while in the other semi-final the two teams that have won the last nine World Cups, Australia and New Zealand, compete.
Some nations were frustrated with the logistical operations they had to endure during the tournament. Samoa have moved twice after being let down by their base – they moved from Doncaster to Bolton and then to Manchester. Australia also moved from its initial training base at the Etihad campus to the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford.
That, coupled with Australia and New Zealand being in a different half of the draw to the hosts, has left some opposing sides wondering if England have had an easier ride. Wane doesn’t think that’s the case and said whoever wins Saturday’s semi-final between his side and Samoa will have a tougher turnaround for the final.
“I’ve never heard that before, and I never thought I’d hear that,” he laughed. “I just don’t see where it’s coming from. The Aussies play Friday and it’s Saturday, 24 hours later. They will therefore have an extra day in a hammam, pleasant and relaxed. They still have 24 hours on us. I think the World Cup did a great job. We’re changing hotels this weekend, traveling to London, and we consider that to be exciting.
England are separated from the other two heavyweights in the draw due to world rankings. First-seeded New Zealand will face Australia on Friday as the Kangaroos are ranked fourth in the world, largely due to their lack of interest in playing international rugby league in recent years. England are seeded third and were due to play second-placed Tonga before they were beaten by Samoans on Sunday.
Saturday’s semi-final is a rematch of the tournament opener a month ago, when England triumphed 60-6 in Newcastle. Wane will make a change for the game, with Luke Thompson replacing St Helens striker Matty Lees in his 17-man squad, but he denied complacency would be a problem despite England being heavy favourites.
“We are very positive and respectful towards Samoa,” he said. “They are not that kind of group. We never mentioned the first game. We know it’s a different team. They are talented with a lot of very good NRL players. They will challenge us. This is the stuff of great success.
Meanwhile, England coach Craig Richards hailed his side’s fighting spirit after they bounced back from an early shock to sink Papua New Guinea 42-4 and secure their place top of Group A of the Women’s Rugby League World Cup.
A first try from Martha Molowia promised to give Richards’ side the test they craved, but they stormed in with eight tries, including a hat-trick for winger Leah Burke and a brace for Amy Hardcastle.
It was just the test required by Richards as he prepares his side for a likely semi-final clash with New Zealand, which will conclude Group B on Thursday night against favorites Australia.
“We needed a few questions answered and while you never want to be marked against a coach, we found the answer on what we do when we fall behind,” Richards said.
“I don’t think we could have made it to the semi-finals against Australia or New Zealand without something tough, a physical battle and a bit of adversity, and that’s what we have tonight.
“Tonight, it was grain. We knew it wouldn’t be fancy sometimes and it wasn’t, and that’s what I liked the most – the girls stick together, stay connected and win the game in a different way than how we won the first two.
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