ENGLAND captain Kevin Sinfield has told his team-mates to prepare for the “biggest week of their lives” as they look to get over their shock warm-up defeat to Italy ahead of the Rugby League World Cup curtain-raiser against Australia.
Steve McNamara’s team were beaten 15-14 at Salford City Stadium on Saturday night against opponents ranked 10 places below them in the world.
And with world No1 side Australia England’s opponents at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in the first World Cup group match next Saturday afternoon, Sinfield knows his team will be expected to make rapid improvements.
“It’s going to be a tough week for us, probably the biggest week of our lives as players where we’re going to be really tested,” said the Leeds forward. “We weren’t shocked [by Italy], we felt pretty good going into it.
“We’ve had great preparation but, for whatever reason, we didn’t perform. Sometimes that happens in sport and you have to take it on the chin.
“I’m certain we’re going to cop some [criticism] and probably justifiably as well. We’ve got to bounce back. We have to be better than that.”
England led 14-12 at half-time against the Azzurri with two tries from full-back Sam Tomkins, proceeded by centre Carl Ablett touching down.
But the World Cup hosts failed to register in the second half and a late drop goal from Josh Mantellato sealed a memorable win for Italy, who kick off their campaign against Wales in Cardiff following England’s match with Australia.
■ Australia v England
■ Wales v Italy
■ Papua New Guinea v France
■ New Zealand v Samoa
■ Fiji v Ireland
■ Tonga v Scotland
■ USA v Cook Islands