ENGLAND winger Jermaine McGillvary expects a “brutal” Test against New Zealand but, as they look to clinch the series, he wants it no other way.
The Huddersfield Giants star hopes to put his country 2-0 up ahead of the final Test at Elland Road next week yet realises it will take a significant effort to deny the gifted Kiwis once more.
England edged home 18-16 in Hull last Saturday but the tourists showed flashes of brilliance and are sure to take their game up another notch at Anfield on Sunday.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post. McGillvary said: “New Zealand are an absolutely outstanding, world-class team and for most of the first game there was nothing in it. By the end, there was just two points and it was a tough match from start to finish.
“We’re expecting more of the same this weekend. We did well to grind out a victory and I’m not expecting anything less than a tough, bone-crunching Test match in Liverpool. Physically, it will be brutal.”
Furthermore, Wayne Bennett’s England must take on the challenge without captain Sean O’Loughlin, the Wigan Warriors loose forward who has failed to recover from a recurring calf injury that forced him off in the first half at Hull.
Castleford Tigers’ Adam Milner or Wigan’s Joe Greenwood – both international rookies – are set to be elevated to the matchday 17 but McGillvary maintains they will deal with the substantial loss.
“Lockers is one of the best players in the world and one of the best I’ve ever played with,” said the 30-year-old.
“He’s absolutely class. But there is a lot of strength in depth in this squad and whoever steps up will do an outstanding job like the squad has as a whole.
“We’re missing around 11 players who played in the World Cup final last year but the rest who have come in haven’t looked out of place in training nor the game.
“You saw what Luke Thompson, Oli Gildart and the rest did last weekend. They were class. You can have faith in whoever comes in. This squad is that good.”
Meanwhile, RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said earlier this week that, alarmingly, the governing body was only “hoping” for a crowd of over 25,000 at Liverpool FC’s famous stadium.
Given Anfield’s capacity is 54,000, such a paltry attendance would be a worrying image to send out especially as 40,000 was drawn to watch the Four Nations final there between Australia and New Zealand just two years ago.
On the back of that, there has been a real drive within the game, not least from leading players agent Craig Harrison on social media, to encourage more people to witness what should be a fascinating sporting contest.
McGillvary – who played semi-professional football for Emley before switching sports with hometown Huddersfield – is keen to do just that.
“For the neutral, and people who aren’t even rugby league supporters, this is a great chance to see a real spectacle,” he said.
“I’m a big fan of football but I can’t sit and watch it for 90 minutes. I’d rather watch the highlights.
“But rugby league is a lot different. It’s end-to-end all the time and there’s always action.
“We do need a bit more of a push to hopefully get the fans to pack out Anfield but us as players need to drive that as well along with the media team.
“I’ve seen Elland Road is selling really well for the third and final Test but a place like Liverpool – where it is not a big rugby league city – hopefully we can get a big following sorted there, too.”
McGillvary has more reason than most to be looking forward to the contest – he is a lifelong Liverpool fan.
He said; “It would be a dream come true to play there. I hoped to do so in 2016.
“I know it didn’t happen then but we don’t have to get to a final this time; it’s there and so close so hopefully I’m in the team once more come Sunday.
“I do get to watch Liverpool now and again but it’s pretty hard with three kids; they’re doing their own sports and I’m having to take them everywhere.
“I try to go a couple of times a year plus I’ve a season ticket at Huddersfield so I try to make sure I see them over here as well.”
With Great Britain expected to be revived next year for the first time since 2007, he would also like to become a Lion.
But McGillvary insisted; “Anything can happen between now and then. Any time you get to represent your nation it’s a dream come true.
“There’s a lot of players in my position and even more coming through now. It’s never a done deal so hopefully I have a good season next season, Wayne sees that and I can be involved in the squad in some way.
“Whether as back-up or playing I’d love to be playing in that environment and hopefully putting on that famous shirt.”
However, the first business, of course, is England getting that victory and following up their 2015 series win over the Kiwis when McGillvary memorably made his Test debut.
England Knights: Page 21