A mid-season international, played on the other side of the world whilst a full Super League round of fixtures still takes place – what could go wrong?
The last time England or Great Britain played a mid-season international in Australia, a demoralising 64-10 defeat at the hands of the Australians followed. This time around, a tough test against Samoa awaits and restriction of a maximum of three internationals per club imposed on the selection process.
From Wigan’s point of view, George Williams and Sean O’Loughlin were the only two players called into the international side, with Williams later dropping out due to a knee injury. The likes of Joe Burgess and Liam Farrell could probably feel hard done to in terms of not being called up but they are likely to be contention for the full World Cup squad at the end of the year.
The side to face Samoa has been announced today and England will line up with:
- Stefan Ratchford(Warrington Wolves, Wigan St Patricks)
- Jermaine McGillvary(Huddersfield Giants, Deighton Juniors)
- Kallum Watkins(Leeds Rhinos, Latchford Albion)
- Zak Hardaker(Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Lions)
- Ryan Hall(Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)
- Kevin Brown(Warrington Wolves, Thatto Heath Crusaders)
- Luke Gale(Castleford Tigers, Middleton Marauders)
- Sam Burgess(South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
- Josh Hodgson(Canberra Raiders, East Hull)
- James Graham(Canterbury Bulldogs, Blackbrook)
- Mike McMeeken(Castleford Tigers, Staines Titans)
- Elliott Whitehead(Canberra Raiders, West Bowling)
- Sean O’Loughlin© (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)
- Chris Hill(Warrington Wolves, New Springs Lions)
- Chris Heighington(Cronulla Sutherland Sharks, Umina Bunnies)
- Chris McQueen(Gold Coast Titans, Wynnum Manly Seagulls
- Thomas Burgess(South Sydney Rabbitohs, Dewsbury Moor)
Probably the most surprising selection is that the Stephan Ratchford will start at fullback whereas Zak Hardaker starts in the centre position, ahead of Mark Percival. The other players to miss out, are Scott Taylor and Alex Walmsley, who again could probably feel hard done to, with Australians (yes, they are Australian!) Chris McQueen and Chris Heighington earning places on the bench.
The Samoa squad (17 man side not yet annouced at time of writing)
Leeson Ah Mau – St George Illawarra Dragons
John Asiata – North Queensland Cowboys
Fa’amanu Brown – Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
Herman Ese’ese – Brisbane Broncos
Sam Kasiano – Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Tim Lafai – St George Illawarra Dragons
Joseph Leilua – Canberra Raiders
Isaac Liu – Sydney Roosters
Josh McGuire– Brisbane Broncos
Peter Mata’utia – Newcastle Knights
Sione Mata’utia – Newcastle Knights
Suaia Matagi – Parramatta Eels
Anthony Milford – Brisbane Broncos
David Nofoaluma – Wests Tigers
Kaysa Pritchard – Parramatta Eels
Sauaso Sue – Wests Tigers
Antonio Winterstein – North Queensland Cowboys
Thoughts on the Game
These types of International games are very hard to predict due to the travelling in which England have had to do, but also due to the unknown entity of Samoa. Samoa have some world class players and should certainly test England, the likes of Brisbane’s, Anthony Milford, Sam Kasiano and Joey Leilua.
NRL.com create their argument for a Samoa victory based on:
“Why Samoa can win: Of the 18 players selected for Samoa, 16 of them play at Australian clubs while the other two play for the Warriors in Auckland. They are used to the conditions they will encounter on Saturday night and their playing group haven’t had to do any major travel in the lead-up to the match. England on the other hand have only seven ‘local’ players, with the other 13 members of their squad arriving Down Under on Sunday, just six days before the clash. ”
Whereas, their arguments for an England win are:
“Why England can win: England have a squad full of renowned metre-eaters, and on paper look to have a big advantage in their ability to gain yardage. No forward has run for more metres in the Super League this year than Walmsley, while backs Ryan Hall, Zak Hardaker and Jermaine McGillvary all sit in the competition’s top 10 for metres gained as well. Add to that the fact that Sam Burgess and James Graham are both averaging over 130 metres per game for their club sides in the NRL, and it’s easy to see how this England side could steamroll most opponents on their day.”
England should expect a tough encounter which will be very different to their previous mid-season games against the likes of France or The Exiles in recent years. The Samoa test will be more like a high intensity play off or NRL game, which should be a good opportunity for Wayne Bennett to assess these players in more detail.
One thing you can say about the England squad since the 2013 World Cup, is that there has been a good nucleus of players that are being picked year in, year out which should hopefully benefit England in the World Cup. With the likes of John Bateman, Ben Currie, Sam Tomkins, Leroy Cudjoe, Stevie Ward, George Williams, Gareth Widdop (injured) and Matty Smith looking to force their way into the squad for the World Cup, Wayne Bennett should have a good squad to pick from.
In terms of how the game will pan out on Saturday, England need a performance after their limp efforts in the four nations. I would expect a close game and England to win by one score with Sean Loughlin coming through the game unscathed!
Last Time Around:
The only international played between England and Samoa previously, is the 2014 Four Nations clash. Highlights can found below, including a great first touch in International Rugby League for Daryl Clark
Wigan Rugby Blog Prediction:
Score: Samoa 16 – 22 England
First Try Scorer: Ryan Hall