England coach Shaun Wane has revealed his plan to combat the size and physicality of Samoa’s forward pack as the two nations prepare to face-off in a World Cup semi-final.
England have glided through the tournament, racking up big scores against all their opponents.
One of those opponents was Samoa, who were humiliated in a 60-6 thrashing to kick off their World Cup campaign.
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But Wane told Fox League’s World Cup preview show that his side are well aware Samoa will be out for revenge.
“I know Samoa will be hurting after the first game, they’ll be a different animal this week and with the amount of Aussie grand final players in their team they’re going to be a lot better, a lot more of a challenge,” he said.
He is referring to the strike of Stephen Crichton in the centres, the workrate of Brian To’o on the wing and the creativity of Jarome Luai in the halves.
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While those Panthers superstars pose a big threat to England, Wane believes the game will be won — or lost — in the middle.
Especially when Samoa boast the likes of Junior Paulo and Josh Papalii in their forward pack.
Wane knows that Samoa beat England in size, which is why he has a plan to limit the big boys’ impact on the game.
“There’s some details in defence (that can improve),” he said.
“The detail in contact on the big men. The fact is we’re not very big, we’re not the biggest nation in this competition. We’re up against NRL players that are far bigger so we need to be good at our detail.
“That’s where Victor (Radley) comes in. We need to be good on the floor, I believe the game is won or lost on the floor — both attack and defence.”
That plan came as no surprise to Samoan prop Marty Taupau, who conceded their first clash with England was “pretty disappointing.”
Taupau also believes that the area Wane wants to focus on is actually where England already dominated in last time they faced off.
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“One place they definitely did dominate was in their defence and definitely time on the ground,” Taupau said.
“With the way rugby league is played here in England, they’re really good with the way they wrestle and take time off you on the ground so it’s definitely one thing that we’ve assessed time and time again.
“I believe in the last couple of international games we’ve definitely worked hard on our defence especially on our impact and that wrestle on the ground as well.”
The battle of the big men is what Fox League’s Michael Ennis is most looking forward to, declaring: “It’s going to be brutal through the middle.”
He acknowledged that there’s a lot driving Samoa, but the prospect of playing in a World Cup final on home turf could give England the edge.
“They (Samoa) beat big brother — Tonga — they get a chance now with a shot of going to the theatre of dreams,” Ennis said.
“What a story that would be for Samoa but you get the sense that it’s the English side, going to Old Trafford in front of 60,000 fans… A chance to win a World Cup on home soil would be phenomenal.”
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Former Kangaroo Cooper Cronk said “it’s hard to get a real gauge on England” but he too has the feeling that “things are building” for them.
The closest an opponent has come to England in this tournament is France, who lost by 24 points in the second group game.
The following week England put 94 points on Greece and only conceded one try before stunning Papua New Guinea with a 46-6 quarter-final win.
And the scariest thing about that?
Wane believes his side still has another gear to go.
“I think we’ve played fairly well, but I still honestly believe there’s improvement in what we can do. We need to be better this weekend and it’s in our own hands,” he said.
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Key to England’s success so far has been Roosters superstar Victor Radley, whose decision to represent his dad’s English roots sparked plenty of opinions.
Wane declared on Fox League that he wouldn’t have picked Radley if there were better options and opened up on how much of an impact the 24-year-old larrikin is having on the squad.
“He’s such a smart, competitive, angry man,” Wane said.
‘I’ve loved coaching him. The players love him to pieces — he’s a real competitor.
“That’s the sort of person I want. I want competitive people, people that, I want people who want to improve and good people, humble people. Victor is all of them things, he’s really impressed me.
“He has that balance of he loves a beer and a good time, but when it’s time to work he switches on and he’s been a great lesson for all the other English players as well.”
England take on Samoa at 6.45am (AEDT) with all of action live on Fox League. The winner will face Australia in a blockbuster World Cup final after the Kangaroos sealed a two-point win over New Zealand.