Samoa head coach Matt Parish will be leaning on former England forward Lee Radford in his preparations for Saturday’s World Cup semi-final against the host nation at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
Parish’s men won a brutal clash with their Pacific neighbours Tonga 20-18 to make history by reaching a first World Cup semi-final and they now have the chance to atone for the embarrassment of their 60-6 defeat by England in the tournament opener.
Parish recruited Castleford coach Radford as his assistant for the World Cup and says he will be drawing on the inside knowledge of the former Bradford and Hull second rower, who won five caps for England between 2001 and 2006.
Parish said: “He’s a big part of our preparation and I’m sure he’s looking forward to having another crack.”
Samoa have been unrecognisable in their three matches since their rout in Newcastle, having had time to find their cohesion, and England will know they will be no pushovers at the Emirates Stadium.
“The tournament was never about the first game, it was about the last game,” Parish said. “We were never going to be at our best, it was always about building through the tournament.
“England were unreal that day, we were pretty ordinary, we’ve moved on.”
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 6, 2022
Asked about England’s progress through to the last four, Parish said: “I’ve only watched one game to be fair.
“But they’ve been pretty good. They’re the home nation and they’re down to last four, they’ve won convincingly in all four games.”
Samoa captain Junior Paulo, whose partner is Tongan, said: “Emotions are through the roof, it’s pretty surreal for us.
“That first game was never an indication of the belief in the camp, we knew we just had to get some footy in us and keep building.”
Paulo and full-back Joseph Suaali’i were placed on report by referee Ashley Klein but Parish says he is confident there will be no repercussions.
Tonga have failed to hit the heights of 2017, when they lost so narrowly to England in the semi-finals, and were always second best against Samoa, although they hit back to level the scores at 12-12 early in the second half.
Coach Kristian Woolf said: “It was always going to be physical and close, it’s two good teams.
“We weren’t quite at our best, whether the occasion got to us at the start, I’m not quite sure, but I thought Samoa beat us to the punch a little bit.
“It’s a missed opportunity and that’s why it’s disappointing.”
Woolf believes Samoa could trouble England but expects Australia, who take on New Zealand in the first semi-final at Elland Road on Friday, to retain their crown.
“I think they (Samoa) are going to be a lot more competitive than they were,” he said. “If they back up what they did today, they are certainly going to put themselves in the contest.
“I don’t think you can look past Australia but all the four teams are going to be competitive.”