Lee Radford set for battle with club colleague Andy Last when Samoa face England

Lee Radford will be hoping to get one over on his Castleford assistant Andy Last when Samoa do battle with England in the World Cup semi-final at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Radford is defence coach of the Pacific Islanders while Last is right-hand man to England boss Shaun Wane and the prize for the winner will be a trip to Old Trafford for the final, with the loser tasked with the job of getting pre-season training under way at their Super League club.

“I’m really pleased for him,” Radford said of his old Hull assistant following England’s impressive campaign so far.

“We’ve been in touch but nothing World Cup-wise, just club-land because the season starts next week.

Huddersfield Giants v Castleford Tigers – Betfred Super League – The John Smith’s Stadium
Castleford head coach Lee Radford (left) will go up against his assistant Andy Last in the World Cup semi-final (Richard Sellers/PA)

“It’s the first week of pre-season so whoever gets knocked out on Saturday gets the short straw.”

Radford joined the Samoan backroom team as a replacement for former Leeds coach Richard Agar and, as the man in charge of defence, found himself under pressure when the team conceded 60 points in their opening game against England in Newcastle, but there were plenty of extenuating circumstances.

“I think it was forgotten about as soon as we got on the bus,” Radford said.

“We knew we’d be off for that first game because a lot of the boys had just won the (NRL) Grand Final and were off celebrating.

“The manner of the defeat was disappointing but we’ve got better in every performance since, particularly defensively.

“We’d had two training sessions as a squad before that first match and it was always a case of just how much could improve and how quickly we could improve.”

Samoa got off the mark in emphatic fashion against Greece a week later before hammering France to qualify for the knockout stages and they gained a thrilling 20-18 win over Tonga last Sunday to earn a re-match with England.

“I said a few weeks ago, before the France game, that I’d love another opportunity to have a crack at it and it’s obviously pleasing that we’ve got that now,” said Radford, who knows they must go up another gear if they are to topple England.

Tonga v Samoa – Rugby League World Cup – Quarter Final – Halliwell Jones Stadium
Samoa celebrate their quarter-final win over Tonga which set up a re-match with England (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I reckon they’re the best team in the comp,” he said. “On paper I don’t think they are but, if you look their build-up, they’ve had two years to prepare for this.

“They’ve had in-season get-togethers and training sessions, mid-season games, a fall-out squad and then a pre-tournament game against Fiji.

“The fact they’ve been together and had that contact time with each other gives them an advantage over every other team.”

Radford, who won six caps for England during his playing career at Bradford and Hull, insists there will be no divided loyalties on Saturday after throwing himself fully into the Samoan culture.

“It’s unique, especially with some of the things I’ve done,” he said.

“It’s been really enjoyable, definitely different to what you get in club-land, how religious they are and the priority they put on that and all the ceremonies they have for presentations.

“It’s been a great experience. There was a big appeal with the playing roster they have and to have the chance to work with some fantastic players.”

England have been scoring points for fun so far, with 242 in four games, but Radford is confident Samoa can provide them with a contest this time.

“Challenging them to come off their own try-line is probably something they’ve not had thrown at them,” he said.