THE player with arguably the toughest task for England tomorrow is likely to be Castleford Tigers’ Adam Milner.
He hopes to make what will be a richly-deserved international debut against France at Leigh Sports Village but, being a loose forward, the 26-year-old really must leave an impression.
That is because the regular No13 is, of course, Sean O’Loughlin, the England captain and Wigan Warriors legend who led his club to yet another Grand Final success against Warrington Wolves on Saturday night.
With nine England internationals who featured in that game given a rest tomorrow, there is scope for others to come in and make their mark ahead of the forthcoming three Test series against New Zealand.
Milner is hoping to be one of them while six England Knights players, including Castleford team-mate Oli Holmes, are also drafted into Wayne Bennett’s squad to prepare.
“Obviously, Lockers showed the other night in that final what a good player he is,” Milner told The Yorkshire Post, having been to watch the Old Trafford showpiece with the rest of the international squad.
“He’s an experienced competitor and there’s no one better in that position than him.
“It’s a big challenge for me to make the team when all the boys are back (for the Kiwis) but it’s one I’m looking forward to.
“It’s been a good experience so far.
“I came in on Thursday night and had a couple of training sessions which have all been good.
“I’m looking forward to it now. Obviously it’s all a new experience coming into camp and being with the boys and I’m really excited to hopefully get out there and play.”
Milner last represented his country with England Academy in 2010, the year he debuted for Castleford, and is certainly a latecomer in Bennett’s plans.
He was not even called into the England Elite Performance Squad until July but, with his sterling displays helping Castleford into the Super League semi-finals again, impressed enough to earn a place in the 24-man squad for the autumn internationals.
Milner knows, too, that O’Loughlin will not be around forever; the formidable Wigan star turns 36 next month.
The industrious Castleford player, therefore, will be looking to show legendary coach Bennett that he has the requisite skills to not only step up to international level but hopefully be the long-term successor at No13.
“Having spent some time with Wayne trying to impress him, I’ll be looking to do just that, 100 per cent,” added Milner, who turned down advances from NRL clubs this summer to stay at Wheldon Road until the end of 2021.
“Obviously, they all went to Denver to play the Kiwis in mid-season and I wasn’t even in that squad but I’m just happy to be here now.
“I’m not sure how much footage he’s seen of myself while he’s been back in Australia but there’s no place better than going out there against France on Wednesday and showing him what I can do.
“It’s been good working with him. He’s different to what I’m used to especially at Cas – he’s a bit different to Powelly (Castleford coach Daryl Powell)!
“But he certainly has a presence about him and when he talks everyone listens. He’s quite a character as well off the field in and around the boys.”
Milner hopes he can make his England debut alongside Holmes who is also 26 and another integral member of Castleford’s pack since coming through the club’s academy together.
He said: “It’s great to see him in there. He deserves it, too, after some of the terrible injuries he’s had in the last few years.
“But this season has probably been one of his best yet and I’m proud of the lad as he really deserves the recognition.
“It’d be great if we did debut for England together. We’re both Wakefield lads – him from Altofts and me not far away in Stanley – so it would be a special night.”
Meanwhile, Wigan’s Sam Tomkins has been handed a one-match penalty notice for a trip on Warrington’s Daryl Clark in Saturday’s final but will serve the suspension against France and be available for the first Test against New Zealand at Hull.
Wigan’s Tommy Leuluai has also been given a one-match penalty notice for a dangerous tackle.
St Helens’ former Bradford Bulls back-row James Bentley and Hull prop Lewis Bienek are among the new faces in Stuart Littler’s first Ireland squad.
Littler, who has taken over from Mark Aston, has chosen a mixture of youth and experience for the European Championship, and retained Wakefield’s Liam Finn as captain.