Former rugby league star Jamie Peacock has urged England’s players to grab the opportunity to become world champions over the next few weeks.
The hosts kicked off their Rugby League World Cup campaign with a dominating 60-6 victory over Samoa at St James’ Park last weekend.
Samoa went into the game as marginal favourites, but were blown away by a power-packed performance from Shaun Wane’s team.
Elliott Whitehead (2) and Dom Young (2) led the way for England, while six other players also ran in tries against the shell-shocked Samoans.
More than 43,000 people watched the game in Newcastle, highlighting the appeal of the sport in what is traditionally a football heartland.
Peacock captained both England and Great Britain during his illustrious career, but never made it beyond the semi-finals at the World Cup.
With home advantage to help them, Peacock believes that England could go a long way at the tournament and help boost the profile of the sport in the country.
“We’ve seen in football with the European Championships that when a home nation goes deep into a tournament it brings everyone together,” he told Betway.
“We’re not football, I get that, but we’re going to be on the BBC for a month. There’s time to build momentum, but that is generally only there when the home side is still there.
“The performance of England is huge in terms of how impactful the World Cup will be in this country.
“The aim for England has to be to make the final. If they do that, they’ll have momentum all the way through and that’s key.”
England have reached the World Cup final on three previous occasions (1975, 1995 & 2017), but have never got their hands on the prestigious trophy.
They produced a brave effort against Australia in the 2017 final, falling to a 6-0 defeat in an uncompromising encounter in Brisbane.
England spurned several chances to score in that game and could have ended their World Cup drought if they had shown a little more composure.
They went into this year’s tournament as one of the more fancied teams, and made a massive statement with their victory over Samoa.
France are next on the agenda on Saturday in a game that will attract at bumper crowd to the University of Bolton Stadium.
Les Bleus, who eased past Greece in their first match, have not beaten England since 1981 and will be desperate to end that miserable run this weekend.
The French side contains numerous Catalans Dragons players, who have showcased their talent to great effect in the Super League in recent seasons.
However, England will have a partisan crowd backing them, and Peacock believes the players should draw inspiration from the atmosphere.
“Don’t see the additional eyes as pressure, see them as support,” he added. “They want you to do well. Use that emotion in a positive way.
“Then just seize the day and enjoy it. You’re realising a childhood dream.”