Mike McMeeken says Samoa semi-final will not be a ‘walk in the park’ for England

Mike McMeeken says Samoa semi-final will not be a ‘walk in the park’ for England

England second row Mike McMeeken is anticipating a transformed Samoa side when they meet in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final at the Emirates.

The two nations faced off in their tournament opener nearly a month ago, with the Samoans coming in with high expectations but ultimately losing 60-6 to the hosts.

McMeeken insisted that scoreline was now a faint memory for an England team hoping to move one step closer to the trophy after narrowly missing out in 2017’s showpiece with Australia.

“We’ve not looked back at that (Samoa) game and thought it’s going to be a walk in the park,” said McMeeken.

England Samoa Rugby World Cup
Mike McMeeken said he could not recall the final score of England’s opening triumph over Samoa (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“We know that we’ve got a tough game against them. They’re up for it and we’re up for it. We’ve not really looked back and thought ‘We’ve beat them by how many points?’

“We know we’re in a knockout game against Samoa and it’s going to be a tough game.”

That result has led some to suggest England are heavy favourites to advance to the November 19 final at Old Trafford, but McMeeken, who scored a try against Greece, was adamant that attitude has not permeated his side’s dressing room.

He said: “I don’t know who’s writing them off but it’s certainly not us. We’re not that type of group that will be complacent and write a team off before we even step onto the field. Whoever is writing them off I don’t think has watched them.

“(That game) was maybe four weeks ago, but it feels like seven, eight weeks ago. A lot has happened in a small amount of time, and as you see with the Samoan side they’ve got their bearings and have put some real good performances in.

“They’re rightfully in the position that they are to play against us.”

McMeeken was “disappointed not to be part of England’s playing squad from the quarter-final onwards” back in 2017 and is relishing the opportunity to make an impact where it matters most, and in front of a home crowd at Arsenal, where he came to watch the Gunners play Stoke a decade ago.

Nevertheless, the experience of that last tournament has fuelled him all the way to the Emirates clash and given him the wisdom to guide team-mates playing in their first World Cup.

He said: “Whether I knew at the time or not, I know now that I’ve taken a lot of experience from that and knowledge from players that were in that squad, a few of them are still in now.

“It gave us as a group a lot of hunger to get back there. We were so close last World Cup to getting the win, but this time around it’s on home soil in England. It’s an extra-special feeling.”