By Josh Graham
England superstar Dom Young has urged his side to drink in the enormity of the occasion before thriving on the big stage in their Rugby League World Cup semi-final rematch with Samoa.
Young, 21, announced himself on the international scene with two tries on debut in England’s opening 60-6 demolition of Samoa four weeks ago, immediately becoming the hosts’ poster boy.
The Newcastle Knights flyer now has nine in just four games, two behind Australia’s Josh Addo-Carr in the race to be the tournament’s top scorer and has impressed coach Shaun Wane enough to displace England’s record try-scorer Ryan Hall on the wing.
Five of Young’s teammates at the Emirates on Saturday played in England’s agonising 6-0 World Cup final defeat to Australia in 2017 and he believes the players’ propensity for big games can help give them the edge over a resurgent Samoa.
“You’ve got to take the occasion into account, we’ve got a lot of players in our team that like the big occasions and that’s where they really come to life,” said Young.
“It’s going to be pretty special walking out onto a ground like this in front of all the fans, but our boys can’t wait for it.
“A lot of them do talk about it , it’s good to have players in the team that have been through it. They’ve played in finals, semi-finals – they like the big games.
“It’s obviously my first one, so I’m really excited for it. We’ve got a lot of experience in the team and a great balance which puts us in good stead.
“It’s the perfect stage for a semi-final and a massive game, so I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Young’s on-field exploits have propelled him far beyond the rugby league sphere, even featuring in GQ magazine this week.
The softly spoken lad from Wakefield is fast becoming a household name but despite appearing not to have much of an appetite for the bright lights of fame, Young admits he is happy to fly the flag for the game with thousands of new eyes on the sport during the World Cup.
He said: “Everyone involved in the sport knows how good it is and how good a prospect it is and if I can help push it into new audiences then that’s obviously good for the game and I like that.”
Young made the courageous decision to up sticks and move Down Under as a teenager in 2020, leaving Huddersfield Giants to further his career in Australia’s NRL.
He has scored 18 tries in 26 appearances for the Knights, enjoying a breakout season this year to force his way into Wane’s thinking having initially been preparing to represent Jamaica alongside brother Alex before the pandemic pushed the World Cup back a year.
And it is those close ties to friends and family that have made his heroic homecoming all the more meaningful.
“Being away from home, it has been really special coming back and having them supporting me each game,” explained Young.
“That’s what I’ve been used to since I was a kid, having them at every occasion. My brother can come to the games as well now he’s finished up.
“Just having everyone there to support me does give me a lift, I’ve really enjoyed playing at home since I’ve been back, I like waving at them and having them there and knowing they are definitely helps me
“It has gone really fast but I’ve loved every week putting the shirt on with these boys. It’s gone really well and I’m loving it, so hopefully it’s the same tomorrow.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets