“The odds are going to be stacked against us, but we have to get the public on side, that is where the pressure is on us. We need to win,” Alex Walmsley says.
The St Helens powerhouse believes England will face one of the strongest pools of talent the international game has seen when Shaun Wane’s side bid to win a home World Cup this autumn.
Walmsley believes a host of sides have a realistic opportunity to reach the last four and has urged his side to hit the ground running to get the nation behind them.
“I do feel there is an enormity here, both on us as a sport and a nation to make sure we perform well for our game,” Walmsley told the latest Love Rugby League Podcast.
“The limelight is on us, we don’t often get that. There will be cameras on us and as a team we need to perform. Look at what England have done in the Women’s Euros and what that has done to their game. Sponsorship will come flooding in because of what they have achieved.
“New Zealand will come over with Australia as big favourites. Look at Tonga and Fiji, there are so many great names. You can’t pick the semi-finalists and finalists now. It is going to be even harder for us but we are up for that challenge and what we do have under Shaun Wane is a lot of pride in our country.
“But to propel our sport to where it deserves to be we need to get the victories, otherwise getting sponsors and making our sport a household name again gets harder and harder. As a squad we will enjoy and thrive under that pressure and hopefully do well off the back of it.”
Alex Walmsley on the new England kit
Walmsley has joined Sam Tomkins in playing down the controversy over England’s new-look kit, which has seen the traditional red and white ditched for a navy and white jersey that many have compared to a Scotland shirt.
“I’m half Scottish so I’ve won on both counts,” he joked. “I saw Sam Tomkins say nobody will care about colours if we are winning – so you could put a bin bag on us and as long as we are winning people will be happy.”
James Roby World Cup U-turn?
Walmsley also backed calls for his St Helens team-mate James Roby to come out of international retirement to play in the tournament.
“I don’t know what the conversations he has had with Waney have been,” Walmsley admitted. “But if he puts his hands up then I don’t think there is a better English nine in our game.”