Rugby League World Cup: Jack Welsby holds key when England face improved Samoa in semi-final
No two games are ever alike and is one of the reasons why England cannot take anything for granted when they face 14/1 rank outsiders Samoa in the semi-final of the Rugby League World Cup at the Emirates - the home of the Premier League leaders Arsenal - on Saturday (2.30pm).
The South Sea islanders were soundly thrashed 60-6 by the host nation in the group stages at St James’ Park, Newcastle, but I believe they will be a different proposition second time round.
Sunday’s quarter final dismantling of Tonga at Warrington will have given the Samoans a shot of adrenaline, if they needed one, and a warning to England that they will have to scale new heights to reach the Old Trafford Final on Saturday, November 19.
It looks, to some extent, that it will be a battle of contrasting styles with England, among other things, providing most of the finesse and guile and Matt Parish’s side trying to counter with strong-arm tactics which served them well against Tonga.
But this current England team is also made of stern stuff and have added steel to their own game and won’t be shy of mixing it in the middle of the park and then striking like a cobra through a three quarter line of pace and power, backed by the prompting and vast experience of skipper and full back Sam Tomkins.
Saints’ Jack Welsby and his Warrington Wolves half back partner, George Williams, will, in particular, be the key to any success at this crucial stage of the tournament.
Both have an uncanny understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses despite only a few appearances in the same line-up at international level and at the same time can also conjure-up a piece of individual magic at the drop of a hat.
Sudden death rugby can often turn the form book upside down but with the support of the fans - and the backing of what is expected to be a healthy crowd - I don’t see England falling short on this occasion.