London ball

Chris Hill hopes for a happier return to London in the World Cup semi-finals

Evergreen England stalwart Chris Hill is hoping for better luck on his second major trip to north London in 2022, but admits there has been an unexpected bonus resulting from his first being downcast.

The Huddersfield forward rower was forced off with a calf injury in the first half of the Challenge Cup final against Wigan at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in May and his absence was sorely missed as the Giants lost 16-14.

The injury also forced him out of the next nine games, but it meant he entered the World Cup with a lighter workload and says the lingering freshness helped explain his hugely impressive form. for his country.

Hill will return to the capital on Thursday to help England prepare for Saturday’s semi-final against Samoa at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, with a second successive appearance in the World Cup final in his sights.

“Probably 11 weeks off with my calf has done me good,” the former Warrington striker told PA news agency. “It refreshed my body.

“I hadn’t been out for that long in my career before and while that had a detrimental effect on Huddersfield and our season, it probably put me in a good position for the World Cup.

“Usually when I arrive in England it’s after 30 games, but I’ve played far fewer games this year. There are two more big games and then I’ll rest.

The selection of Hill, one of six survivors from the England squad that lost 6-0 to Australia in the 2017 final in Brisbane, followed the withdrawal of St Helens forward rower Alex Walmsley on injury and caused a few raised eyebrows.

However, he is guaranteed to win his 34th cap on Saturday after rolling back the years with a string of outstanding displays against Samoa, France, Greece and Papua New Guinea which he attributes to hard work and skill. spirit within the English camp created by the leader. coach Shaun Wane.

“I worked hard,” he said. “I’m very critical of my own game and I always push myself. I turned 35 this week, but no matter how old you are, you’re doing your best. It worked fine under Shaun.

“It’s a great group of guys. Obviously, I had never met many, but there is a good mix of experience and youth and I think that’s what you need in a World Cup.

“You spend a lot of time with each other, there are a lot of different personalities in the band but we all get along.”

Key to England’s impressive run so far has been their quick starts and Hill, alongside Tom Burgess, helped lay the platform that allowed Wane’s men to bring down Papua- New Guinea in last Saturday’s quarter-final in Wigan.

Hill insists the 46-6 victory was not easy, however, and says he is ready for another physical battle in the semis.

“I wouldn’t say easy,” he said. “The final score probably flattered us a bit. It was far from easy, they really stuck to it and were solid in the middle.

“But, if you want to play a perfect game, then that was it, it was a perfect 25 minutes.

“We knew we had to keep the ball away from PNG because they love to attack and if we gave them too much ball they could be damaging so we had to come and box like we did.

“Now the guys are buzzing and we’re looking forward to Saturday, it’s another battle. Tottenham were huge and I’m sure the Emirates won’t let you down. Hope it’s packed.