Wigan: There’s a real spring in the step of this underdog English team who genuinely believe they can finally end a 50-year World Cup drought.
Music was blaring in the England change rooms 90 minutes before kick-off against Papua New Guinea on Sunday AEDT – and they continued the party on the field.
In front of Catherine, Princess of Wales, the Englishmen destroyed PNG 48-4 almost three years to the day after the Kumuls upset Great Britain 28-10.
But these players have come a long way since 2019 and in Wigan they produced the best half seen of any team at this World Cup.
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England scored seven sensational tries in the first 27 minutes, leaving the bumper sell-out crowd in raptures.
The players were in great spirits inside DW Stadium after the match, drinking beers with sponsors and taking selfies with fans for a good two hours after the game.
Teammates chirped John Bateman about his impending move to the Wests Tigers while he was talking to foxsports.com.au.
“You’ve signed with the Tigers for over a million, just tell him John,” one teammate yelled as others laughed.
Bateman dubbed the group “absolute idiots” while grinning from ear to ear, but the former Raiders star and 2019 Dally M second rower of the year didn’t deny the move.
“It’s always good to be liked, I don’t care what you say,” Bateman said.
Victor Radley dodged the media zone as players left the sheds and when tracked down an hour later following England’s post-match function, the Roosters star didn’t budge on his longstanding policy of not talking on the record after having “had a few beers”.
Radley’s shock defection just two months after getting picked in the NSW Blues squad gained headlines across Australia and England.
When Radley didn’t emerge to the waiting media, England’s five-try hero Tommy Makinson was asked if he was coming and quipped “Victor who, sorry” to the raucous laughter of teammates.
England and Rabbitohs star Tom Burgess is in a rich vein of form, unlike his twin George who was granted an early release from the Dragons last month.
Burgess was taken aback when asked if his 30-year-old brother’s football career was over, but he quickly cracked a joke.
“I think he’s going to pursue an acting career with Rusty (Russell Crowe),” Burgess quipped.
England next face Samoa at Arsenal’s home ground the Emirates Stadium for a spot in the final.
There’s a growing belief in the north of England that this team can go one better than their runner-up finish to Australia in 2017.
England hasn’t tasted World Cup success since Great Britain lifted the trophy in 1972 and they’ve lost the final to Australia five times since.
After the emphatic victory, foxsports.com.au asked England coach Shaun Wane if his side are playing beyond his pre-tournament expectations.
“Yeah, they are to be honest,” Wane said.
Rugby league originated in Yorkshire in 1895 after it split from rugby union over player payments.
Football might be ‘coming home’ after all.