St George Illawarra prop Mike Cooper claims the lack of atmosphere generated at NRL games will work in England’s favour when they meet New Zealand in Saturday’s series decider at Wigan.
The Kiwis prevailed in the second match in London last Saturday and a capacity crowd is expected at the DW Stadium as Steve McNamara’s side try and win a series against Southern Hemisphere opposition for the first time since 2007.
Former Warrington front-rower Cooper has spent the last two seasons with the Dragons but said the passionate support generated at stadiums in the Super League can rattle Stephen Kearney’s Kiwis who often play in front of less intimidating crowds in the NRL.
“Playing for Warrington in those big Friday and Saturday night games, I know how intense they can be,” he said.
“It will go in our favour. Our lads are used to that, whereas in Australia they are not used to crowds that make a noise which can intimidate you. It’s a completely different atmosphere to play in.”
Although he misses the passion of the Super League, Cooper admits he has improved immeasurably since heading to the NRL and enjoyed a strong second season in 2015 as he helped the Dragons reach the finals for the first time in four seasons.
“I’m a lot more experienced than I was when I left, especially in the big games,” said Cooper.
“I’m certainly a lot fitter. I think playing in a high-pressure situation every week gets the best out of you and that’s what has made the transition into the Test level a bit more comfortable for me.
“Although I didn’t get to play for England last year, I still had to train pretty hard to put myself in the frame to play and it gave me a bit of a kick up the backside for this year.
“It’s been good to be back with the boys, back to having an English sense of humour. We’ve had a laugh the last three or four weeks. It’s been hard work but I’ve enjoyed being here.
“Obviously you don’t know what to expect until you’ve played in a Test arena but I’ve been fairly happy.”
The Kiwis, beaten 26-12 in the opening game in Hull, arguably have the momentum after squaring the series but Cooper believes England’s courageous defensive display at the Olympic Stadium has given them even more belief that they can topple the world No.1 ranked team.
“There were a lot of positives from Saturday,” Cooper said.
“I’d say we’re even more confident from that game than we were from the first because of the way we defended everything that they threw at us.
“We stayed at that high level and a bit of luck didn’t go our way. If the game had gone on for another two hours, we would still have defended our line, which is a credit to the players and how fit they are.
“It probably took a bit of sting out of our attack so, if we can fix a few things up, we should be alright.”