Steve McNamara and Kevin Sinfield dedicated England's victory over Fiji to Steve Prescott.
The former St Helens, Hull and Wakefield full-back, who was 39, passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning after a seven-year battle against stomach cancer and the news was relayed to head coach McNamara and his squad by Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood.
"I think we were all shocked," McNamara said after England's game at Hull.
"When Nigel rang me this morning to tell me the news I was pretty upset by it. He was a really close friend and someone I think we all admire.
"We talk about the feats he has achieved since he got his illness but I'd also like to remember him as a fantastic rugby league player.
"When you put all his qualities, both as a player and a human being, together it's a really sad loss."
Prescott was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of stomach cancer, in September 2006.
Despite being given just months to live, he battled on and set up the Steve Prescott Foundation to raise money to fight the disease and for the RFL's official charity.
Prescott, who was made an MBE in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to rugby league and charity, never lost contact with the game.
McNamara added: "Steve came and presented our jerseys before the mid-season game against the Exiles.
"He wasn't in great shape then. He'd been told he couldn't eat or drink again but he dragged himself there and he gave a speech to the players which still rings true now.
"He spoke about how your body will do what your mind tells you to do.
"For someone who was given months to live, to do what he did over six years is pretty super human and a very strong message to myself and the rest of the group.
"There is a very close affinity to Steve and we were all pretty upset by it this morning."
Skipper Sinfield said news of Prescott's death hit the England team hard. "Steve has been a part of what we've been building for the last couple of years," he said.
"He came and did the shirt presentation for us and spoke to us. What Steve has done and how he's lived his life has certainly inspired all of us.
"I must say it really spurred us on today, especially with it being Remembrance Sunday tomorrow.
"Hopefully he'll be smiling looking down now, knowing we've got the win for him."