England’s 94-4 win against Greece at Bramall Lane won’t win the host nation the World Cup, but former captain James Graham believes a moment at the end of the game convinced him they can.
The concentration of Shaun Wane’s side was exemplary in the second half as they gave a Greek side full of several part-time player no mercy – scoring 50 unanswered points after a scratchy first 40.
BBC pundit Graham praised England for this and in particular an effort from St Helens forward Morgan Knowles towards the end of the match in Sheffield.
“Going into Shaun Wane’s mindset, there was a moment in that game at 78-4, Morgan Knowles is tied up in the tackle, third man in, he sprints back to get onside and that allows him to put kick pressure on,” said Graham.
He continued: “Those are the plays that are going to win you a World Cup Final. Those little effort areas that makes your team-mate’s job easier by going that extra mile.
“It was sensational stuff from Morgan Knowles, at 78-4, for him to do that. That’s what I spoke about before the game. We’re not playing Greece here, we’re playing a World Cup final.”
England are now expected to face Papua New Guinea in the quarter-final, before a semi-final against either Tonga, Samoa or France – with Samoa playing France on Sunday to determine who will make the last eight.
It has been an almost faultless group stage from Wane’s men, having scored 196 points and conceded just 28 on their way to three impressive victories.
England’s route to the final is far from straightforward, but with favourites Australia and number one-ranked nation New Zealand on the other side of the draw, showing themselves to be almost faultless in the group stage, there is a feeling of optimism around the supporters of the host nation.
The Kangaroos and Kiwis are on a collision course for the semi-final, with both expected to have no problems overcoming their quarter-final opponents in the shape of Lebanon and Fiji respectively next weekend.