Castleford players taking aim at World Cup semis

Luke Gale gets a kick away for England against France in the Rugby League World Cup. Picture: NRLPhotos
Luke Gale gets a kick away for England against France in the Rugby League World Cup. Picture: NRLPhotos

The Rugby League World Cup is over for Featherstone Rovers’ Frankie Mariano, but four Castleford Tigers players are still in Australia with England, Papua New Guinea and Samoa all preparing for quarter-finals this weekend.

Mariano scored his first World Cup try for Scotland, but the Bravehearts were knocked out on points difference after drawing 14-14 with a Samoa team that did not contain Tigers half-back Ben Roberts.

Samoa now go on to play hosts and tournament favourites Australia this Friday with Roberts recalled to the starting line-up to play at scrum-half.

Two Castleford players are set to be on opposing sides in Sunday’s quarter-final between England and Papua New Guinea with Luke Gale retaining his place in the English team at scrum-half and Garry Lo selected on the wing for PNG despite picking up an injury in their 64-0 win over the USA.

Gale enjoyed his best World Cup game to date against France as he had a hand in four first half tries before being rested for a spell by head coach Wayne Bennett.

England lost their way with the Tigers general off the pitch and struggled to pick up the momentum when he returned for the last quarter, but ran out comfortable enough 36-6 winners and are now gearing up for their knockout game when they are expecting a big test from a PNG side that has looked impressive so far, with Lo one of their star performers.

Castleford back rower Mike McMeeken will be disappointed not to have been selected, but he got his first taste of World Cup action against France and enjoyed the experience.

He said: “It was a really good feeling. There were plenty of England flags around the place and it made the atmosphere classy.

“The French team really tested us so it was a good competition to have and a really good experience as well.

“We just need to minimise errors. Personally with myself there were a couple of errors in there, which I can change.”

On the quarter-final to come, McMeeken said: “PNG have been good throughout the whole tournament. Their forwards are strong, their backs are strong and we’ll be expecting a very physical performance from them. We’ve got to make sure we’re up for it.”

McMeeken is pinching himself at being at the World Cup.

He added: “There was no way when I signed for Cas that I thought I’d be in Australia two years down the line representing my country on the world stage.

“I’ve got a lot of people at London Broncos to thank who put me on my way and gave me Super League experience.

“When I signed for the Tigers, I was probably half the player back then than I am now.

“Daryl and the coaching staff have moulded me into what I am now. It wasn’t all physical but more the mental side of the game I needed to learn. My passing and running game have developed a lot in two years.”