Ambitious Milner is driven by chance of series win

WHAT do Chris Bridge, Luke Robinson, Jon Wilkin, Ryan Bailey, Jamie Langley and Gareth Hock all have in common?

Eight years ago, they each featured in a historic England Academy series win over the elite Australian Schoolboys, a revered side previously believed to be invincible given the class and utter domination they boasted over their peers.

The other trait those talented teenagers shared from 2002 is they all went on to represent their country at senior level. Castleford Tigers' Adam Milner is bidding to repeat both feats.

The lively hooker captained England to success over the current Australian Schoolboys last Saturday and knows victory in their second and final Test tomorrow will see them emulate that first cherished accolade.

"Another player who played back then was Richie Mathers," Milner told the Yorkshire Post, referring to his new Tigers team-mate, the former Leeds and Warrington full-back.

"He passed it on to us that they were the only team to ever whitewash the Aussies.

"Not many teams beat them at all but they did it twice that year. It would be brilliant for me and Jordan (Thompson) – both Cas lads – to be able to go back and say to Richie we've done the same.

"It's something we've be aiming towards and all the team think we can achieve it."

Centre Thompson scored a crucial try in the 38-30 weekend success and his strike threat will be pivotal if they are to complete the job when, with original venue Castleford frozen, they return to Leigh tomorrow evening.

Milner – who turns 19 later this month – said: "It was a great achievement and honour to captain my country for the first time.

"The whole team knew we needed to pull something out of the bag. We were losing 30-18 and had to put an extra effort in to get the result. We needed to and wanted to.

"Now we have got another 80 minutes to do it again."

It would complete a memorable 12 months for the former Stanley Rangers junior who began by signing a three-year contract in January before making his Tigers debut off the bench in the July win over Huddersfield Giants.

"I wasn't expecting that at all," recalled Milner, who went on to play three more times, featuring at Warrington before scoring his first try in the victory over Harlequins and then crossing again in their dramatic final match at St Helens.

"I'd been at college all this year and didn't finish until May. At the end of my first week full-time training, though, I was in the squad for Huddersfield and it's been a great experience.

"Hopefully I can get a few more games next season and push on. Having experienced guys like Ryan Hudson and Danny Orr around is only going to benefit me."

As will the experience of playing international football. It came as no surprise to people from Castleford that Milner was named captain of the England Academy.

The level-headed youngster has given consistently mature and inspirational performances in the reserve grade and proved he has the temperament to cope with Super League.

There is a hope at Wheldon Road that his industry and promise will see him one day represent his country at the highest level and become the first Castleford hooker to do so since the great Kevin Beardmore more than 20 years ago.

Milner may, ironically, have got the lowest grade of his three A-levels in PE – "it was more like a science" – but there is no questioning his physical ability with insiders claiming he is the fittest player on the Castleford books, his engine proving sound as he inspired the late fightback against Australia with two searing breaks to set up match-turning tries.

After the miserable Four Nations, the England rookies have lifted spirits at home and he said: "There were a lot of people writing us off.

"But we've got a real chance against the Aussies now to show what English rugby is capable of, that we do have the talent and the ability to do the business."

However, the over-riding argument is that if England are to succeed against Australia and New Zealand at senior level, its players must start playing in the more challenging NRL Down Under to raise individual and collective standards.

Milner, despite his relative inexperience, has already had a taste of what is on offer.

"I went over on an exchange with my school Outwood Grange when I was 16," he said.

"I went with a mate who's playing at Huddersfield Giants now – Danny Ansell – and we had two months playing in the Rockhampton State High School team.

"It was a brilliant experience, totally different to anything we'd done – a new country, new culture – and I loved every minute of it.

"I'd just joined Cas and they allowed me to go. Obviously, I'd love to play in Australia at some point but that's a long, long way away; it's here at Cas I want to develop and I know I've got a lot of work to do."