December 4, 2022, 5:20

Rugby League World Cup 2021: Elliott Whitehead on silencing England’s doubters

Rugby League World Cup 2021: Elliott Whitehead on silencing England’s doubters

England back Elliott Whitehead on the strength he sees in the 24-man squad Shaun Wane has selected for RLWC2021; hosts England open the tournament against Samoa in Newcastle on Saturday

As an Englishman playing in Australia, Elliott Whitehead is used to hearing his home nation being written off whenever an international rugby league tournament comes around.

Along with reigning champions Australia and the other member of the sport’s ‘big three’ New Zealand being talked up ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup, 2017 semi-finalists Tonga and England’s opening-day opponents Samoa are being tipped ahead of the host nation too.

Indeed, outspoken NRL pundit Phil Gould tweeted his belief England cannot beat a star-studded Samoa team in the tournament opener in Newcastle, yet Canberra Raiders back row Whitehead is not fussed by anyone doing down the chances of Shaun Wane’s squad.

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“People can keep talking about Tonga and Samoa, but for us, it’s all about us and all the outside noise can be left to itself.

“It doesn’t really bother me who you talk about, to be fair. I know what this group is capable of, and they’ve shown it over the last couple of weeks in training.

“We’ve got some great individuals from experienced players to young players and come Saturday we’re going to show what we can do.”

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“They tell me to challenge it and they’re normally wrong. We made a rule this morning no props can say to do a captain’s challenge.

“I really took to my stride [as Canberra captain] this year. We started slowly, but we found our form. For me, being captain of the side is an honour and a pleasure but coming into this camp it’s a totally different team and I’ve got some leaders in this England squad I’ll look up to and follow.

“I’ll help out with my knowledge and talk, and what I know about the game, and obviously my knowledge of the captain’s challenge can help out there.”

Should England defy the naysayers and go on to lift the Paul Barriere Trophy at Old Trafford on November 19, it would be the first time the World Cup has been on UK soil since Great Britain won the 1972 edition of the tournament in France.

The disappointment from the narrow defeat to old rivals Australia in Brisbane five years ago is still there for Whitehead, yet there will be no dwelling on that as the current team aim to end 50 years of hurt – starting with kicking things off in the perfect manner against Samoa this weekend.

“It was disappointing that night, but we’ve got a different group here and I believe this group can go all the way in this tournament,” Whitehead said.


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