17 Nov 2022
Simpson insists England do not feel pressure
Home nation hopes rest solely with the wheelchair squad
By Paul Martin at Manchester Central
England’s hopes of Rugby League World Cup glory on home soil rest solely with the wheelchair squad but James Simpson insists they are not feeling any extra pressure.
Simpson and his teammates take on France at a sold-out Manchester Central on Friday night in the third consecutive final to be played between the two nations.
Les Chanticleers have won the previous two by tight margins but Simpson is confident England can turn the tables and provide a welcome pick-me-up given semi-final defeats for the men’s and women’s teams.
“We’re not suddenly under this extra pressure to win because the other two teams didn’t make it,” he said.
“It’s not a case of ignoring it [pressure], we just don’t feel it and that’s not the talk. It’s not a conversation that crops up and it’s certainly not something I feel.
“We are all one big family in the England set-up and everyone supports everyone.”
The hosts will hope for a big performance from the prolific Jack Brown, whose 15 tries so far have taken his overall World Cup tally to 52, while Adam Rigby is another survivor from the squad which won the inaugural tournament in 2008.
“Back then, we came back as world champions, arrived at Manchester Airport and there was one guy with a phone camera from the local newspaper,” Rigby said.
“This time, every game has been on TV, so in terms of building the profile of the sport, there’s no comparison whatsoever between the two.
“As a squad, we’re loving it.”
Declan Roberts, who reached the final at his dad’s expense when England beat Wales 125-22 in the last four, has backed his side to cope with the pre-match butterflies as they set their sights on history.
“As much as people will say they’re not nervous, they’re lying,” he said. “This will be the biggest game of everyone’s lives and there will be some nerves, otherwise you’re not human.
“But there’s definitely huge excitement at playing in front of a big crowd in such a big game.
“We’re trying to savour every moment of the build-up and we can’t wait to get out there and get stuck in.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets