Castleford Tigers captain Michael Shenton and head coach Daryl Powell are backing England to do the business in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
Former Tigers players Brett Ferres and Rangi Chase are expected to line-up in the big match at Wembley, having played in every game in the competition so far, while former Featherstone Lions juniors Tom Briscoe and Rob Burrow are also in contention for places after missing out for the 34-6 win over France in last Saturday’s quarter-final.
Shenton, who played in the Four Nations final for England, is delighted to see the part being played by his two former Cas team-mates.
He said: “Brett’s just looked pretty much class. His defence looks good and he’s carrying the ball strong. I think he’ll keep in the team in that left side back row position.
“I think Rangi has improved since the tournament started. He’s looking like he is all over the field like he should be. He needs to get his hands on the ball and you can’t just hang Rangi on one side.”
Shenton has also been impressed by New Zealand, but reckons England have the capability of beating them.
He added: “I know they haven’t had the strongest opposition against them, but the Kiwis pack looks massive and their halves are sharp.
“I’m really looking forward to the semi and it should be a good game. We’ll see how the boys match up to the physicality, but I think they can and they’ve got a really good chance.”
Head coach Powell, who was formerly part of the England set-up as assistant coach to Steve McNamara, reckons an English win would top off a successful tournament.
He said: “New Zealand are an outstanding team, but I do think we’ve got the team to do it if everyone is on top of their game.
“The Kiwis are excellent so if they can knock them off they can go into the final feeling confident about themselves.
“It’s been a great tournament and all we need now for international rugby league is for England to be in the final. I’m hoping that’s going to be the case.
“It’s going to take a massive performance, but they are capable of doing it. There’s a lot of quality players in the squad and there’s no reason why they can’t.
“England have been a bit up and down. It was a poor performance getting beat by Italy in the warm-up and what some of the players did after that was absolutely incredible.
“They had a good opportunity against Australia which they didn’t take. Then they have had a couple of reasonable performances, but they are going to need to go to a different level, which is pretty obvious, this weekend.
“I think the World Cup’s been great as a tournament. It’s been well supported and from a rugby league perspective the game’s grown. It will be massive if England can do the job this weekend and progress.”