CASTLEFORD Tigers’ Adam Milner says he is ready to take up influential Sean O’Loughlin’s role if the England captain fails in his bid to be fit for Sunday’s potentially decisive second Test against New Zealand.
The Wigan Warriors loose-forward is a major doubt, having limped off with a recurrence of a calf injury early on during his country’s 18-16 win at Hull in Saturday’s series opener.
Milner is the only other specialist No 13 in Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad so could conceivably come into the equation for this weekend’s follow-up at Anfield.
The 26-year-old only made his Test debut off the bench against France less than a fortnight ago but believes he is primed to face the impressive Kiwis if he does get the nod.
“Obviously, it’s not the ideal way to get into the team if Lockers does miss out injured,” Milner told The Yorkshire Post.
“But I’m ready to play and take that opportunity with both hands if it does come up.
I’m ready to play and take that opportunity with both hands if it does come up. This has been my first time in the England squad and it’s been a great experience so far.Adam Milner
“This has been my first time in the England squad and it’s been a great experience so far.
“Watching that game live on Saturday gave me a real good taste of it all – seeing us go up against one of the best teams in the world – and I want to be a part of that. Hopefully, I get a chance and, if not this week at Liverpool, then maybe the week after at Elland Road.”
St Helens prop Luke Thompson came off the bench to replace 35-year-old O’Loughlin and play as an extra front-row on Saturday, gaining praise from Bennett for his stamina, industry and carrying ability.
Fellow prop Tom Burgess also started at No 13 against France so the coach may opt for a similar direct tactic this weekend.
Milner conceded: “For only his second international, I thought Thommo was absolutely outstanding.
“I’m more similar to Lockers in the way he plays; a bit more of a natural passer of the ball.
“The Burgess boys obviously cart it up real strong and are a bit more one-dimensional but, if I’m called up, I’ll bring my skills to this Test.”
Although a rookie on the international stage, the Wakefield-born forward has some big-game experience having reached the Grand Final with Castleford last year.
Milner is also renowned for his defensive appetite, which could be key against the talented Kiwis, and he has been picking the brains of veteran England prop James Graham in training.
“Wayne (Bennett) keeps things very simple,” he said.
“As a middle, he wants you to do all the little things right. His principles pretty much are work hard, run hard and tackle hard.
“That’s what he’s told me. James Graham has had some little chats with me, too, telling me just what Wayne expects and I’ve gained some guidance from him which has been a great help.
“We know there’s going to be a reaction from the Kiwis; it’s Test football.
“We saw what they could do in Hull and they’ll come straight back at us on Sunday. They’ll want to level the series up going into Leeds.
“We’ll probably have to be better again to get past them and it’s all set up for another fantastic game at Anfield, which will be a new experience in itself for many players. We’ve had a day off today and are back in camp Tuesday ready for a big week.”