England performance not a surprise to rival coach Kristian Woolf as Tonga prepare for PNG

Kristian Woolf and Jason Taumalolo Tonga SWpix
Photo: Brett Phibbs/www.photosport.nz

England’s emphatic performance in their opening World Cup game wasn’t a surprise says rival head coach Kristian Woolf.

Shaun Wane’s side claimed a dominant 60-6 victory over Samoa at St James’ Park in the opening fixture of the tournament.

The host nation went into the clash as underdogs but proved the bookmakers wrong with a 10-try performance in Newcastle.

Woolf, who will depart for Australia following the World Cup to link up with the Dolphins in 2023, insisted he wasn’t surprised by England’s performance having worked in Super League for the last three years. 

“I watched England versus Samoa and Australia Fiji and a little bit of the other games.

“I was surprised with the scoreline in the end [between England and Samoa], but I wasn’t surprised with the performance. 

“For whatever reason, people have understated England a little bit. 

“When you work over here and you know how hard some of those players work week-to-week and you know the quality of the guys like Jack Welsby, and there’s plenty of others in there, but the likes of Tommy Makinson and Morgan Knowles, those guys that I get to work with; the performance wasn’t a surprise at all.”

Tonga could potentially face England in the semi-finals, but Woolf insists he isn’t looking that far ahead with PNG first up in Group D.

“We’re not worried about that at all yet. We’ve got a lot of games to play before we get to think about quarter-finals or semi-finals.”

Kristian Woolf: We’re going to have to be at our best

The Totally Wicked Stadium hosts the opening fixture of Group D, which also features Cook Islands and Wales.

Tonga picked up a warm-up win over France a fortnight ago, and Woolf is expecting a tough clash against the Kumuls. 

“We know PNG are going to be an extremely tough competition. They do well at every World Cup. The last time we played them, they actually beat us. We’re going to have to be at our best.

“I think they’re going to be extremely tough. They’ve very a proud rugby league nation and a proud nation overall. I have the privilege of knowing a lot of people from PNG where i grew up. They’re very proud people and that’s how they’re going to play tomorrow.

“They’re going to play physical and tough and we certainly don’t expect anything less.”

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About Josh McAllister 2126 Articles
Journalist. Joined the Love Rugby League team full time at the start of 2022 having been a freelance reporter for several years. Previously media manager for Swinton and Rochdale.

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