England coach Shaun Wane says his side will go into their opening World Cup game against Samoa as massive underdogs.
A host of high-profile NRL players have switched their allegiance from Australia and New Zealand to represent their Samoan heritage.
Matt Parish’s side will be able to have a full 1-6 of players from reigning NRL champions Penrith, including Charlie Staines, Brian To’o, Stephen Crichton, Izack Tago, Taylan May and Jarome Luai.
In the forwards, meanwhile, they’ve got the likes of Josh Papali’i, Marty Taupau, Josh Aloiai and Jaydn Su’A.
“That must be one of the strongest (squads) in the World Cup,” Wane said. “It’s unbelievably strong, not just with NRL players but with NRL players who are playing very well.
“We obviously won’t be under-estimating them. We are massive underdogs in that game and I’m not playing a game there.
“I’ve looked at their best 19 players and it’s strong. We need to be very good to beat them in that first game.
“We’re strong, I’ve got some great athletes in my team. My strongest 17 is very very strong so it’s got the makings of a great game.”
Samoa head coach Parish will be assisted by former Leeds coach Richard Agar and future New Zealand Warriors boss Andrew Webster.
England boss Shaun Wane helps RFL launch Three Lions Week
Wane was speaking on the day the Rugby Football League launched Three Lions Week to encourage more people to get involved in the game.
Running between September 25 and October 2, clubs across the country will throw open their doors to encourage people of all ages and abilities to try rugby league through activities, tournaments and open days, organised by the clubs’ foundations.
“It’s a great initiative to get more people watching the game, it’s huge,” Wane said. “I’m very passionate about getting kids playing our great game.
“Having the World Cup here is a great opportunity to get more eyeballs on our fantastic sport. I’m going to be involved with it and doing anything I can to make sure it works.
“Rugby league has given me everything I’ve got, it owes me nothing, I owe it everything.”