Royalty, respect and the need to be ‘red hot’

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England’s George Williams is writing weekly columns for BBC Sport during the Rugby League World Cup. Here he discusses meeting royalty, returning to his home turf, and paying respects before Remembrance Sunday.

It was great to have her there. The crowd loved it and it’s good for rugby league to have someone of that profile at the game.

It was a massive opportunity for our sport. People knew she was going to be there and we performed as best we can to make people interested.

She was really nice. I kept it short and sweet, just said ‘hi’ and that it was nice to meet her.

Herbie Farnworth seemed to be waffling for ages. I’m not sure what he was saying. A couple of the lads had a good chat with her. She spent quite a bit of time with everyone and took time to talk.

Sam Tomkins did the captain’s job of introducing us all, which I’d have been a bit nervous about. I dodged that by a week, luckily. I would probably have said something out of turn, and she wouldn’t have understood my Wigan accent.

Back on familiar turf

It was nice to get back to my hometown club Wigan and be cheered at the DW, as I normally get booed these days when I go back with Warrington.

I saw a few old faces and, as I ordered 20-odd tickets for my family, it was nice to have everyone watching.

The day as a whole was brilliant.

The women’s side started it off with a big win against Canada and they’re now two wins from two. And we showed in the first 30 minutes what we’re capable of against a tough Papua New Guinea team.

We blew them away at the start of the game, but credit to them, they came back in the second half and made it scrappy and a bit more of a tussle.

They never gave up, but we showed our quality. The middles were immense, they laid the platform – definitely at the start of the game. Big Tommy Burgess led from the front.

Overall, it’s flowing really well. We’re starting games well, and if we’re going to do something special we need to perform for 80 minutes, not just 30. We need to be red hot.

Defensively we’ve been really good too. Morgan Knowles and Matty Lees, when they came on, lifted our defensive efforts, and PNG only scored off a kick which we’ll take because it means it’s hard to break us down. We pride ourselves on that.

We’ve had sore bodies each week, but PNG definitely bring it.

That second half was definitely something we needed though – it was an arm-wrestle and I think we’ll benefit from that. It’ll be set for set in the semi-final and hopefully final. So it’s vital.

Spooky goings-on in camp

We had a Halloween party, and I dressed up as a clown. I was quite impressed really with how the lads went for it with their costumes. It was a sober one, being a Monday night, so there was no beer involved.

To dress up like when you’re sober is a bit weird I suppose, but we still had a good laugh.

It was my birthday, so they made me do a dance and all sorts of stuff. I was the dancing clown. It was a 30-second dance without music, which is a tough gig. I said I needed something, so all the boys clapped.

It was a terrible dance. So bad. I did a Daniel Sturridge – the old goal celebration… all that arm-waving stuff. Did that for five seconds and I was lost after that. Thirty seconds feels like 10 minutes when you’re in that kind of nightmare.

Every person that’s had a birthday in camp, they’ve brought in a cake for them which is pretty good. We’ve had a few of them – Morgan Knowles, Chris Hill, me – over the past week or two.

Paying respects before Remembrance Sunday

It was really special going to the National Arboretum to pay our respects before Remembrance Sunday with boss Shaun Wane and the rest of the camp.

We did something similar with Wayne Bennett when he was England boss during the New Zealand tour in 2018. He took us to France for the 100 years’ anniversary of the end of World War One.

It’s something the England camps are passionate about – getting us to understand our history as a country and the sacrifices people have been through and experienced for us to enjoy the position we’re in now.

Our sport does replicate in some ways the hard work and ‘backs against the wall’ kind of stuff those who fought experienced – we can relate to it in that way – but they endured far tougher times than we could ever appreciate. For them, it was life or death. For us, it’s win or lose.

It connects you with the stories we heard. It’s humbling to realise how good we have it, and what they fought for. The players really bought into it.

Seeing Samoa, and a rematch on new turf

I had a rare Sunday in front of the telly watching sport. I watched the Samoa-Tonga game and then Liverpool-Tottenham in the football.

Samoa-Tonga was a tough old game and it’s so good for the sport to see two nations like that in front of a massive crowd at Warrington.

The face-off with the Sipi Tau and the Siva Tau was unreal to watch. It was brilliant, and the game didn’t disappoint either. There was so little between both teams.

We know Samoa will be a different animal in our semi-final, and will be wounded by the way they performed against us in that opening game when we thrashed them 60-6. They will definitely be looking for payback.

We’ll prepare as we have done throughout the tournament. We won’t be taking them lightly at all.

I’ve ticked off some decent grounds in this World Cup, and this weekend hopefully will be another amazing stadium with Arsenal’s Emirates.

It’s big for rugby league and for us players to play in events like this at stadiums like this is superb.

Hopefully the England fans can continue their magnificent support and get as many people down to London as they can. The backing we’ve had has been awesome and running out to a big roar like we’ve had at every game so far always inspires us as a team.

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