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Jon Wilkin says hype around ‘terrible’ Samoa was ‘drummed up from the NRL’

Former St Helens player Jon Wilkin believes the 60-6 defeat England inflicted on Samoa in the World Cup’s opening game will be ‘shattering’ for the Pacific Island outfit.

Samoa came into the game at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Saturday as favourites with the bookmakers, as they boasted their greatest ever team full of NRL Grand Final winners.

But they were unable to produce a performance to match that of their hosts, with England running out big winners on the day in front of a 45,000-strong crowd in the North East.

Reviewing the game on Sky Sports, ex-player-turned-pundit Wilkin believes a lot of the noise around the Samoan team was built up from down under which allowed England to play with freedom.

“For Shaun Wane that is a dream start,” said Wilkin. It doesn’t get any better than that. There were probably five England players who could have got man of the match, that’s stark contrast to Samoa who were terrible.

“I think it’s quite shattering for Samoa. I think a lot of the noise about them being favourites was drummed up from the NRL and how many players they had going from the NRL Grand Final and into that Samoa team.

“You felt that they were going to carry some of that form into that game and therefore they are going to be favourites. I didn’t mind saying Samoa were favourites because that took the pressure off England, but that’s gone now, the pressure will be on England now.”

Wilkin also added that he himself did start to believe some of the hype around Samoa, admitting he wasn’t sure the opening game of a World Cup was going to be a positive one for England.

“I thought with the added debacle around the delayed start, it was a sign of how things were going to go,” he said. “The game just didn’t come anywhere close to being a negative though.

“I thought the performance was incredible. Probably one of the best performances I have seen from England in a number of years. It wasn’t just the scoreline that impressed me, it was the fluency, how connected they all were and how the spine of the team performed.

“For round one of a World Cup I was just blown away by the interactions of England’s key players. I thought Williams, Welsby, Watkins, were outstanding, as was Dom Young who was spoken about a lot in the build up.”

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