Liam Farrell column: ‘Micky will be relishing PNG clash’

Micky McIlorum faces PNG this weekend. Picture: NRL Photos
Micky McIlorum faces PNG this weekend. Picture: NRL Photos
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The World Cup is up and running.

I’ll obviously be keeping tabs on England this Saturday, but the game of the weekend could be Papua New Guinea against Ireland on Sunday morning.

I’ve never played against PNG, but everyone knows how physical they are. And at home in front of their passionate fans, they’re going to be well up for this game.

Ireland were terrific in their victory against Italy.

A few people were surprised by their win, but when I saw the squad, I thought they had a great chance.

They’ve got a lot of good, strong Super League players in their side and - on top of that - they looked really cohesive. They played really well together.

St Helens forward Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook was very good, Leeds’ Brad Singleton showed he is a tough competitor, and then - of course - there was Micky McIlorum.

I thought he had a great game, and he’ll want to carry that on this weekend against the Kumuls.

I’ve played alongside him for so many years, and I’ve never known him to take a backward step.

Against anyone.

Many people could be forgiven for not looking forward to playing over there but, believe me, Micky will be relishing the chance.

I can’t wait to watch it and, for what it’s worth, I’m backing Ireland to win.

The day before, England face Lebanon.

I was encouraged by England’s performance against Australia. I certainly didn’t think it was a case of ‘same old story’ – I think you can see what Wayne Bennett wants to achieve, and how he hopes to do it; by playing the Aussies at their own game.

I felt the big difference in the first-half was the kicking game – Australia finished the sets really well, and earned a few drop-outs which forced England into doing more defending.

It’s hard to quantify how much harder it is to defend than attack, but it’s definitely a lot more energy-sapping. In defence, there’s always a role for you – even if the play is on the other side of the pitch – there’s just no time to get a breather.

It was good to see England improve as the game went on, and I’m confident - with the squad they’ve got - they will get better and better as the tournament unfolds.

I’ll certainly be cheering them on.

Closer to home, we’re back in for the start of pre-season next week.

Some of the younger lads are more experienced at doing pre-seasons than me, because in the past few years I’ve had England duty, so in a way I’m looking forward to it.

I know it’ll be tough, especially with so much anger over the way last season went, and a few lads have been training this week just to get back into the swing of things.