GIVEN his recent form, it is no surprise to see talk of an international recall for Mike Cooper getting louder.

Indeed, one of the most intriguing aspects of The Wire’s Challenge Cup clash with St Helens on Saturday will be his front-row battle with Alex Walmsley, another England hopeful.

While others may see it as a battle to impress new national team coach Shaun Wane, Cooper says that is not his main motivation.

“Any time you play, its in the back of your mind to get the better of your opposite number,” he said.

“That’s my job as a forward and its no different this weekend. There’s no need for extra motivation for me other than doing my job as best I can.

“It’s nothing personal towards anyone else but if I do my job for the team, I’m sure we’ll come out on top.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m up against Alex Walmsley or anyone else.

“You’d say he’s the prop to beat at the moment. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him.

“I’ve played against a lot of quality front-rowers both here and in the NRL and he’s definitely up there.

“That’s not forgetting James Graham next to him who’s probably one of the best front-rowers the UK has ever produced.

“Me and Chris Hill have a job to do and we’ll do whatever we can to make sure we come out on top.”

It was Cooper, Hill and the rest of the Wire pack’s domination of their Saints counterparts that have been key in the wins his side have posted in the teams’ past two games.

Steve Price’s side won 19-0 at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in Super League back in February after triumphing memorably in last year’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.

Warrington Guardian:

The Wire front row of Chris Hill, Daryl Clark and Mike Cooper celebrate winning last year's Challenge Cup. Picture by Mike Boden

However, as Cooper points out, the game as a whole has changed since then with new rules in place to ease rugby league’s transition into a time in which Covid-19 remains prevalent.

He believes the speed at which the game is now played has benefitted both sides and whoever keeps a lid on that on Saturday who will come out on top.

“We watched some video the other day of our game against them at the start of the year. It felt like it was last season,” he said.

“The game has changed so much since Covid and I actually think the speed of the game suits both teams now.

“The team who controls the ruck and slows the game as much possible, speeds it up when they want to and play on their terms will be key.

“We’ve looked at how we’ve played against them previously but what’s more important to us is how they’ve played in the past few weeks. That’s what we have looked more at.

“We’ve had some really good battles with St Helens over the years – I’ve been a part of many of them and I’ve no doubt Saturday will be another one.

“We’re full of confidence as I’m sure they are and we’re two very similar sides, in attack certainly.

“These are the ones you look forward to playing in.”

Warrington Guardian:

Cooper in action during the win over St Helens in February. Picture by Mike Boden