England v New Zealand – Daryl Clark hoping to make it third time lucky at Anfield

Daryl Clark.
Daryl Clark.

DO not dare suggest to former Castleford Tigers hooker Daryl Clark how exciting it would be if New Zealand pipped England in the second Test and this fascinating series was to go to a decider at Elland Road next week.

The former Man of Steel has heartbreakingly already lost two finals this season, both the Challenge Cup and Super League Grand Final with Warrington Wolves; he is desperate to hold a trophy aloft at Anfield tomorrow and will wait for no one to do so.

Granted, the bookmakers do have the Kiwis as narrow favourites to level things up after their 18-16 loss in Hull a week ago but the margins are so fine no one is paying any real attention to that.

It should be another bruising, relentless and tense encounter – but England do fully intend to emerge victorious.

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Clark told The Yorkshire Post: “It’d be stupid to fall into that trap where we say ‘if we don’t win this, we’ve always got next week’.

We’ve prepared to win this one. We don’t want it to go to a deciding game so we’re hoping we can get the job done this week.

Daryl Clark

“That can backfire and you can end up losing them both. We’ve prepared to win this one. We don’t want it to go to a deciding game so we’re hoping we can get the job done this week.

“The Kiwis were what we expected last week; they throw the ball around really well, have really good skill.

“With their offloads they can throw the ball anywhere and a lot of the time it comes off for them,” he said.

“They played really well but I’m expecting them to be a bit better this time around and we have to be as well.”

Clark, 25, will have an old friend alongside him when they do go into battle.

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When he and Adam Milner were team-mates at Castleford Tigers, one would generally have to be on the bench while the other was starting at hooker.

Ironically, though, both are sat as replacements tomorrow given Milner, of course, has now converted into one of the best loose forwards in Super League.

Having debuted last month against France, the 26-year-old comes in for just his second cap replacing the injured England captain Sean O’Loughlin in the only change from last week’s 17.

Having essentially grown-up together through Castleford’s junior system to flourish in the first-team at Wheldon Road (Milner remains but Clark was sold to Warrington for £185,000 four years ago), it will certainly be a nice moment for the pair in Liverpool.

“I am just happy for him,” said Clark, who, in contrast, wins his eighth cap.

“I’ve played with Adz for a number of years, I think from being 16, 17 and leaving school I played with him up until 2014.

“He’s been pretty consistent for a number of years now and I am really happy for him that he has got this chance to pull the shirt on against the Kiwis as I know it’s been a big dream for him.

“He’s wanted it for a long time and I’m happy I’m going to be part of the team that he does it in.”

Clark said he always thought Milner had what it takes to reach the elite level.

“When I was coming through he was in the year above me and already in the England Academy set-up,” he added.

“I think he was actually captain against the Aussies at Under 18s when they beat them.

“I always missed out on Academy stuff when I was younger. The first time I got involved with England was 2012 with the Knights before then straight in with England when we went Down Under for the 2014 Four Nations.

“For whatever reasons I was never selected when younger. (Huddersfield Giants’) Adam O’Brien was always the one who got in the international sides from a young age; he was the main one coming through.”

England coach Wayne Bennett has spoken about Milner’s work-rate and general enthusiasm being key components.

Castleford-born Clark explained; “He is a bit daft.

“But he’s just a happy guy; you see him laughing a lot and joking around all the time. There’s not many times you see him without a smile on his face which is a good thing.”

Clark has a smile on his own face having reclaimed his place in the England squad after being left out for last year’s World Cup.

With St Helens’ James Roby undergoing surgery, Bennett turned to the dynamic Yorkshireman who helped Warrington get so close to glory this season.

Clark came on for Canberra Raiders star Josh Hodgson in the second period last week and instantly made a difference with his injection of pace.

“Last year I was pretty disappointed to miss out but I turned my form around a bit this season and gave myself a chance,” said the 2014 Man of Steel.

“I am enjoying it at the minute; it was good to put the shirt back on and do the anthem again.”

And it will be even better to hoist that silverware tomorrow.