England were pegged as the underdogs for yesterday’s game against Samoa.
It was the World Cup’s opening game in front of 43,119 fans at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park but despite home advantage England were expected to lose in the eyes of the bookmakers and some pundits.
NRL pundit and Canterbury Bulldogs Chief Phil Gould even said “England can’t beat Samoa” last week.
Part of the reason for this was the inclusion of plenty of NRL winners in the Samoan side including Jarome Luai at six.
However, perhaps the main reason was the belief that England would be out muscled by a Soman team 10-15 kilos heavier than their English counterparts.
England would go on to upset the odds with a massive 60-6 win over Samoa with 10 tries including braces from Elliot Whitehead and Dom Young.
At the heart of this win was how England made plenty of metres down field. Part of this was down to a strong performance from the pack with Tom Burgess and Chris Hill causing plenty of problems.
Meanwhile, Whitehead and fellow backrower Mike McMeeken ran wide and made plenty of metres for England.
But the real stars of England’s performance were the outside backs, not just because they scored the tries but it was them getting England on the front foot with some outstanding carries which took England forward.
They generated quick rucks and made plenty of metres forward getting Samoa on the backfoot allowing England to cause havoc such as with the opening try.
This philosophy has been backed up by the stats from yesterday’s game. Kallum Watkins made 206 metres alone, a truly impressive amount from the former Rhino.
Meanwhile, fellow outside backs Tommy Makinson (193), Herbie Farnworth (182) and Dom Young (168) weren’t far behind him as the outside backs started sets well.
Between the four of them they made 749 metres throughout the game.
Surprisingly, George Williams also made plenty of metres himself. The halfback made a total of 171 metres yesterday despite the fact halfbacks are usually seen as not runners but creators who move the ball on to other players.
It highlights again that Williams likes to run with the ball and ask questions of the defence which could be a vital asset for England as the tournament progresses.