PERSONAL AS well as team motivation will inspire Castleford Tigers forward Adam Milner in tonight’s massive Betfred Super League semi-final at Wigan Warriors.
A place in the title decider at Old Trafford in eight days’ time is up for grabs – and an opportunity to right the wrongs of last year’s Grand Final defeat by Leeds Rhinos.
For Milner the semi-final is also chance to make an individual point opposite Wigan loose-forward Sean O’Loughlin, who kept him out of this year’s Dream Team and bars his way to an England cap.
Milner was this week named in the England squad for this autumn’s Test against France and New Zealand, but O’Loughlin is the established first-choice.
“He has been the stand-out loose-forward in the competition for years,” Milner said of tonight’s rival.
“He is the benchmark for every loose-forward and it is a good test to come up against him – and there’s probably no better place than a semi-final.”
A win tonight, in front of a travelling army of around 4,000 Tigers fans, would complete a sensational week for Milner who was notified of his England call-up on Monday.
He said: “I got the phone call from [England manager] Jamie Peacock and driving home from the supermarket I was thinking ‘did he really just ring me and tell me that’?
“It came as a bit of a surprise, but I am absolutely delighted I’ve got into the 24.
“I said to him I was buzzing and he said I’ve just got to get into the 17 now and get a game under my belt. I will be doing everything possible to do so.”
We are in good shape. There’s no tougher task for any team than beating Wigan at Wigan, but we are confident and we are looking forward to it.Adam Milner
England’s Test against France at Leigh will be played on Wednesday, October 16, four days after the Grand Final.
Players on duty at Old Trafford are unlikely to feature, but Milner insisted: “I’ll do anything to play for my country.
“I’ll just have to see what happens this week, but I’ll certainly be putting my hand up no matter what.”
Wigan will go into tonight’s game as favourites, having finished second in the table, one place and five points clear of Tigers, but Milner insisted: “We are in good shape. There’s no tougher task for any team than beating Wigan at Wigan, but we are confident and we are looking forward to it.
“We have learned lessons from the last time we played them there. We know they are a quality team and we have to be on it for 80 minutes.”
Tigers’ confidence was not dented by last Friday’s 28-0 loss at St Helens.
“Once the top four was decided there was very little to play for and a lot of our focus was on being right for the semi-final,” Milner said.
“In our heads we were thinking about the semi-final, but we know we can’t be turning up like that this week or we will get our backsides kicked.”
The loss of young player nominee Jake Trueman, because of a hand injury, is a major blow for Tigers.
Junior Moors remains sidelined, but Michael Shenton, Oliver Holmes and long-term casualty Matt Cook could return from injury and Mike McMeeken and Greg Eden are back after being rested last week. Will Maher and Quentin Laulu-Togagae make way.
O’Loughlin, Sam Tomkins, Ben Flower and Thomas Leuluai are recalled by Wigan, with Josh Woods and Craig Mullen dropping out from the side which beat Hull last week.
Wigan Warriors: from Bateman, Clubb, Davies, Escare, Farrell, Flower, Gildart, Greenwood, Hamlin, Leuluai, Manfredi, Navarrete, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Sutton, Tautai, Tomkins, Williams.
Castleford Tigers: from Clare, Clark, Cook, Eden, Gale, Holmes, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Wardle, Watts, Webster.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Today, 7.45pm.