England head coach Shaun Wane is expecting his side to come up against a “different team” in Samoa in their World Cup semi-final in London.
This is not the first time the two sides have met, as England opened the tournament against Samoa in Newcastle last month and cruised to a 60-6 victory.
Wane’s team finished top of Group A and reached the last four after beating Papua New Guinea 46-6 at the DW Stadium on Saturday, with Tommy Makinson setting an English World Cup record of 30 points, scoring five tries and kicking five goals.
Samoa came into the tournament incredibly under-prepared, but have since built momentum with wins over Greece and France to finish second in Group A, before beating Pacific neighbours Tonga 20-18 to reach the semi-finals.
Despite Samoa’s shaky start to the tournament, Wane insists his side are not underestimating the threat they can pose.
He told a press conference: “We’ve never mentioned the first game, everything’s been about Samoa and Tonga when they’ve been playing really well, so we’ve not even referenced the first game at Newcastle.
“We know this team we’ll play on Saturday will be a different team, they’re talented, they’ve got a lot of really, really good players from the NRL and they’re going to challenge us and we’ve got to be ready.
“Every single individual player has played better, they were massively underdone and if you remember I said this after the game (against Samoa in Newcastle).
“I know their individuals very well, I watch all the NRL so I knew they would improve massively and I know most of the coaching staff and that’s what’s happened, they have improved, not in a particular area, but I think every individual is playing better, no shadow of a doubt.”
However, Wane dismissed claims in Wednesday’s press conference that the tournament has been set up in England’s favour, with some critics suggesting that the competition’s logistics have benefitted the host nation.
“The Aussies are playing Friday and we’re Saturday, they have 24 hours on us in a steam room, so they’re relaxed,” Wane said.
“I think the World Cup’s done a great job, the organisers and what they’ve done.
“We’ve had seven-day turnarounds and I don’t think any team could moan about changing hotels, we’re changing hotels this week going down to London.
“But we look at that as exciting, we’re getting on a fantastic coach tomorrow, going down to a great hotel tomorrow in our capital and we’re going to do a few things.”
England’s semi-final is set to take place at the Emirates, Arsenal’s home ground, in what will be the first sport other than football to be staged at the stadium and Wane is relishing the chance to showcase rugby league to a new audience.
He said: “I think rugby league is the best sport in the world and these athletes who play this sport, there’s not many athletes in the world who can do what they do.
“I want as many eyes on our game as possible and taking this down to London this weekend at Arsenal, I’m really happy to take my team down there and hopefully perform the best we can.”