England vs New Zealand: Talking points ahead of second Test
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 04/11/18 7:05pm
England are 80 minutes away from completing a second series win over New Zealand in four years on home soil.
Oliver Gildart's stunning second-half try, on his international debut, helped England to an 18-16 victory over New Zealand at the KCOM Stadium in Hull in the first Test and they will be looking to wrap the series up at Anfield on Sunday.
Here are the main talking points surrounding the game.....
The end for Sean O'Loughlin?
England will have a third captain in four games, largely due to the increasingly suspect nature of Sean O'Loughlin's battered body.
The Wigan loose forward this week signed a new contract with his club for 2019, but he turns 36 later this month and is already being groomed as a future head coach.
Wayne Bennett rates him "touch and go" for the third Test and there must be a distinct possibility that his 25th cap in Hull was his last.
England have a wealth of options as his successor. Sam Burgess, who captained England in the World Cup final, is the most obvious choice, but Bennett could also turn to current stand-in skipper James Graham, Gareth Widdop or Josh Hodgson who all have captaincy experience at club level.
Beware the wounded animal
Despite falling well below the level they showed in beating Australia a fortnight earlier, the Kiwis could so easily have won the first Test in Hull and will have identified the areas they need to improve.
It is fair to say the tourists probably did not get a fair rub of the green in Hull, particularly over the penalty try awarded to England on the stroke of half-time, and they will be happy to see an NRL referee in charge on Sunday.
New Zealand bounced back from their opening defeat at the KCOM Stadium in 2015 to level the series in London and they are favourites with the bookmakers to do the same again.
Anfield is a risk
The crowd of 17,649 in Hull was a disappointment and initial estimates for Anfield have suggested an attendance of around 25,000, which would look lost in a stadium that holds 54,000.
A late publicity push on Friday morning, might help push the figure closer to the 40,000 that watched the 2016 Four Nations Series final between Australia and New Zealand.
Anfield is currently being touted as a potential Magic Weekend venue, so Super League supremo Robert Elstone will be particularly interested in the size of the crowd on Sunday.
The sacrifices players make
Sam Tomkins caused a stir when he revealed he missed his own stag party to play in the first Test, while Richie Myler cancelled a family holiday in Dubai when he was handed a recall to the international arena.
Myler, who ended a six-year absence by helping England beat France in the opening autumn international, has yet to feature in the Test series against New Zealand but is happy to be around the camp once more, which illustrates the appeal of international rugby league.
Tomkins missed the start of the training camp in order to attend his brother Logan's wedding in Cyprus but did not hesitate to pull out of his stag do in Hamburg, which was arranged to fit in between the end of the 2018 domestic season and the start of pre-season training.
Arguably the biggest sacrifice was made by Luke Robinson in 2010 when he not only missed his own stag do in Las Vegas but postponed his wedding in order to go on the Four Nations tour down under.