Chris Hill set for appearance milestone in England’s semi-final with Samoa

Veteran prop Chris Hill will climb to second in the all-time list of leading appearance makers in Rugby League World Cups when England take on Samoa in Saturday’s semi-final at the Emirates Stadium.

A rejuvenated Hill, who turned 35 last week, broke the British record previously shared by John Atkinson, Roger Millward and George Nicholls when he made his 15th World Cup appearance in the 46-6 quarter-final win over Papua New Guinea in Wigan last Saturday.

That brought him level with Australian Bob Fulton and behind only Cameron Smith, the former Kangaroos captain who holds the all-time record with 17 appearances spread across the 2008, 2013 and 2017 tournaments.

Chris Hill file photo
Chris Hill is one of only six ever-present England players (Mike Egerton/PA)

Hill, one of six survivors from the team that lost 6-0 to Australia in the 2017 final, will have a chance to equal Smith’s record if England reach a first World Cup final on home soil since 1995.

The Huddersfield player is now the third most-capped England player of all time with 33, behind only Ryan Hall (40) and James Graham (44), having overtaken James Roby last week.

Hill, who enjoyed a new lease of life following his close-season move from Warrington, has been named in coach Shaun Wane’s 19-man squad for the game at Arsenal and is one of just six England ever-presents so far, alongside Tom Burgess, Victor Radley, Jack Welsby, George Williams and Dom Young.

Burgess is set to become the fifth England player to win 30 caps on Saturday, with Kallum Watkins and Sam Tomkins one behind on 28.

The only change to Wane’s squad is the recall of Canterbury Bulldogs front-rower Luke Thompson in place of his former St Helens team-mate Matty Lees.

England v France – Rugby League World Cup – Group A – University of Bolton Stadium
Luke Thompson, left, is back in the England squad (Martin Rickett/PA)

Marc Sneyd and Kai Pearce-Paul are expected to once more drop out of the 19, with the latter set to occupy the role of 18th man, who would be used in the event of three failed head injury assessments.

Thompson has not played since England’s second group game against France last month and, according to Wane, could have a point to prove against the Samoans.

“I hope so,” Wane said. “He’s a great player, he has been for a long time and he needs to fire up and play the best he can. I’m sure he will.

“Matty did some good things against PNG. He’s a really good player and a really good kid but I want to have a look at Luke Thompson.”

The clash with Samoa will be England’s 200th full international but only their fifth against the Pacific Islanders, who were beaten 60-6 in the opening game of the tournament in Newcastle four weeks ago.

Samoa have been unrecognisable since their opening-day debacle and Radley says England are expecting a close-fought game.

“They’re going to be stronger and we’re stronger,” he said. “It’s going to take 17 hard Englishmen to stop them and that’s what we’ve got.”

Wane says confidence in the camp is high on the back of four impressive performances.

“It’s very positive, very respectful to Samoa,” he said. “We’re all excited about going down to London and putting a show on.”

England’s 19-man squad: S Tomkins (Catalans, captain), T Makinson (St Helens), K Watkins (Salford), H Farnworth (Brisbane), J Welsby (St Helens), G Williams (Warrington), T Burgess (South Sydney), M McIlorum (Catalans), L Thompson (Canterbury Bulldogs), E Whitehead (Canberra), J Bateman (Wigan), V Radley (Sydney Roosters), D Young (Newcastle), M Knowles (St Helens), M Cooper (Wigan), C Hill (Huddersfield), M McMeeken (Catalans), M Sneyd (Salford), K Pearce-Paul (Wigan).