Posts Tagged ‘England’

World Cup 2013 in England

August 8, 2009


So, we’re getting a World Cup in England! Yay! Admittedly it didn’t work out so well last time, but it worked the time before that and the last World Cup was a success in its own right. Most importantly, this is being planned four years out, which allows for ample preparation time (a rarity in Rugby League). 

It’ll be interesting to see what format they use. It’s been pretty much said there will be twelve teams, which seems about right to me (especially as three groups of four would bypass the need to have byes, which proved crucial in determining the final group tables at the last world cup). I would like there to be three groups of four, with two big sides in a group that gets two semi-final spots (then it could open with an England-Australia game somewhere). I’m not sure there’s such a great need for a Super Group this time, but I worry that’s the direction the organizers are heading in. Although the format generated exciting games, it also attracted a lot of ire and basically forced Papua New Guinea out of a semi-final spot. 

It will also be interesting to see what venues are used. I think that the plan to mainly use stadiums in the heartlands is a sensible one, especially after the 2000 World Cup. However, I also think it’s worth pointing out that Super League rugby is played in London, Bridgend / Newport and Perpignan, and it’s worth playing games there. I think playing the opening game in a largish venue in London (particularly if it’s England-Australia) should be seriously considered, as should a game at The Stoop. If Wales and France qualify, then they should probably get a home game each (at least). 

The venue for the final could be intriguing as well. It would be nice to think we could get a big crowd at Wembley, but I think that would require England to be there and I doubt the RFL have that much confidence. I would be more than happy with a final at the City of Manchester Stadium, where I once saw an excellent crowd generate a lot of atmosphere for a GB-Australia test in 2004. It’s a large modern stadium and I think it should be where the Tri-Nations final should be every time it’s in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Anyway, I’m just glad that there’s a tournament on and that we now have something to look forward to. Hopefully the success of the last world cup can be built on to make the tournament an outstanding success. I look forward to getting my tickets already!


France 12 – 66 England

June 14, 2009

I can’t remember the last time I felt this bad about an English side thrashing another team. England cantered to a very large victory in Paris yesterday against a very lacklustre French outfit that for the first half at least looked like they couldn’t be bothered. Although England will no doubt give all that talk about ‘beating what’s put in front of you’ and will no doubt be pleased with the result, it was a match that gave us no real indication as to how good this England side really is, because the home side were so bad. 

From the moment Ryan Atkins went over for England’s first try in the seventh minute, this game was over. England continued scoring at slightly over a point a minute for the rest of the first half, and even though they did it with some nice long range efforts, it should be pointed out that France seemed to offer minimal resistance. Their defensive structures were absolutely appalling and left far too much space on the fringes for English players to run into untouched. On the odd occasion that they actually managed to get to a player like Gareth Hock, they were still usually powerless to stop the offload. France were missing some of their front-line forward pack (Fakir, Elima etc.) but the guys who replaced them offered no fight down the middle. France were barely able to get out of their own half. It was not a good start for Bobby Goulding. I know he wants to avoid using French-based Australians, but if Clint Greenshields makes himself available for the 4 Nations, is Goulding really in a position to turn him down?

As for England, I’m not sure how much we learned apart from the fact that they can thrash a poor French side. Nobody looked out of place and I was glad to see Ryan Hall go well on debut because the wing is a position where England really need players to step up a level or two. It has to be said that the pack completely dominated the French and seemed to make twice as much ground per set as their cross-channel counterparts. Of course, whether they could do such a thing against the Kiwis or Kangaroos remains to be seen, and I would be skeptical about that happening. 

I was hoping this would be a closer game, because it would be extremely beneficial for both sides if England and France could partake in a close game each year. England really need a boost in intensity, and I don’t think France at the moment provide it. Now I don’t think we should stop playing these games, but France really need to look at what they can do to raise their standards. The most worrying thing about this result is that it casts a shadow of doubt over the 4 Nations. If England can do that to France without ever really getting out of second gear, then what are the Kangaroos at full pelt going to do? Hopefully France raise their game so we don’t have to find out an answer to that…

Tony Smith to Warrington

March 6, 2009
Tony Smith, wondering just how hes going to turn this one around

Tony Smith, wondering just how he's going to turn this one around (Getty Images)


I know I’m way late on this (work is such a hassle sometimes) but you can’t really avoid commenting on this. Tony Smith, England Coach, has been appointed as Warrington’s Head of Coaching and Performance. James Lowes is staying on as 1st Team Coach. In doing this, Smith now has had to step down as Technical Director of the RFL, although he is remaining on as England Coach in a part-time capacity.

I can’t say I’m all that surprised by the announcement. There are many reasons I could imagine that Smith would want to take up such a challenge:

  1. Warrington are still a club with a decent core of very talented players, and it’s quite obvious that they have under-achieved. Smith probably thinks he’ll have a few fun toys to play with at the Wolves
  2. I would suspect that Smith might be missing the more hands-on nature of Club management
  3. He badly under-achieved with England at the World Cup and is looking for an outlet to prove that he’s still a more-than-capable coach
  4. He’s guaranteed himself some work after the Four Nations

There are also a fair few reasons why this move makes very good sense for the Wolves:

  1. ‘Under-achieve’ doesn’t do justice to what has happened to the Wolves so far this season. Their swings from ‘good’ to ‘very bad’ even within the same game has been alarming to say the least. James Lowes hasn’t been instilling confidence and they need to stop the rot as soon as possible
  2. Tony Smith is a coach with a proven track record in Super League. Apart from one season where his Huddersfield side got relegated (and to be fair to Smith, they would have been relegated long before he took charge if they hadn’t been saved by bureaucracy) he’s basically succeeded with every side he’s coached. 
  3. Connected to point 2, he’s one of the key forces that turned Leeds from under-achievers to the dominant force in Super League, something I imagine the Warrington board may have noticed and may relate to.

Really, the big losers here appear to be the RFL, who now no longer have a Technical Director, and have an England Coach who’s not fully committed to the job and has vested interests outside of the team. It adds another layer of intrigue to the Four Nations, and I hope that for Smith’s sake he manages to get success with at least one of his two sides now. This could prove to be exactly the remedy that Warrington needed.

Four Nations Fixtures Released, Reveal Shockingly Conservative Approach

February 23, 2009

Today the RFL released details fo the upcoming Four Nations dates and venues, and there’s more than a few surprises involved, none of them particularly nice:

24/25 October:

England v France Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster

Australia v New Zealand The Stoop, London

1/2 November:

England v Australia JJB Stadium, Wigan

France v New Zealand TBC, France

8/9 November:

England v New Zealand Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield

France v Australia TBC, France

14 November:

Final Elland Road, Leeds

That first weekend in particular is shockingly revealing of low confidence in the drawing power of the Four Nations, not to mention reeking of a money-saving mindset. I understand that there’s a credit crunch going on and that everybody wants to keep the extra pennies, but it really creats an image problem when what is supposed to be the premier event on the Rugby League international calendar opens up in stadiums with just over 27,000 capacity between them. On the plus side I would imagine that the Stoop would sell out, which in another respect is disappointing as the Kangaroos and Kiwis sold out a bigger ground in Loftus Road only a few years ago and I suspect that they could do it again. I also understand the logic of choosing the Keepmoat for the France game (the crowd for the Wales game last year was a pleasant surprise) but really they should be aiming for a higher crowd. Considering the talk in the lead up to the World Cup of going to Wembley for a game against Australia, the JJB Stadium can’t help be be a disappointment.

More than anything else, it seems to show that the RFL don’t have much confidence in England’s ability as a draw, and after the World Cup why would they? France haven’t exactly looked hot in the last year either, and there seems to be a genuine fear that this will be a damage limitation exercise. This should be a premier event for Rugby League in this country, yet people seem to be fearing that it turns into a disaster. Unfortunately, with that sort of mindset it probably will turn into a disaster. I’m really hoping now that England reach the Final at Elland Rd and put in at the very least a credible performance, because it’s hard to see the RFL being willing to expand the potential exposure they could get if England are going to just crap on the stage again.

Things We Have Learned From The World Cup (some of which we knew already)

December 4, 2008

Australia are beatable

Well, the Final proved this, didn’t it? Australia are still the gold standard, and they have by far and away the best collection of Rugby (either players) in the world, yet this was their fifth defeat in five years. Okay, so one defeat a year is a very healthy average, but since the ‘Invincibles’ tour defeat has not been an acceptable outcome for the Kangaroos. They still carry this aura of greatness about them, but because New Zealand chose to ignore this aura they were able to defeat them fair and square.

Wayne Bennett is one of the greatest coaches of all time

Stephen Kearney was lucky enough to have an all-time great as his assistant.

Stephen Kearney was lucky enough to have an all-time great as his assistant.

I know that Stephen Kearney was the head coach, and I don’t wish to undermine his contribution to the New Zealand victory, but it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming presence of Bennett. As well as a record number of Grand Final victories and a production line of modern greats that he achieved with Brisbane, he was also a driving force behind the Tri-Nations and led The Kangaroos to that first title. When he lost the Final to the Kiwis a year later he was cast away from the job, which makes it somewhat ironic that his revenge has been achieved with the Kiwis. As a passionate supporter of the international game, he will be pleased that this victory reinvigorates the international scene.

Ricky Stuart is too astute for his own good

Before the Final, Stuart was quoted in the press as saying that he felt that his side hadn’t been pushed hard enough in their run up. Admittedly this had a lot to do with the Kiwis and England sucking in the group games, but they also followed those games up with two games against well meaning but ultimately understrength second tier nations. I wondered if Stuart was just trying to make sure his players were on their toes, but ultimately he was right; Australia were caught out by the intensity of a team who had been in two tough scraps with England.

England flatter to deceive far too often

This was a real disappointment. England came into the World Cup with high hopes, particularly on the back of their sweep of the Kiwis a year before, but ultimately they were off the pace. Their undoing appeared twofod; firstly, they didn’t look like a team that thought they could win the tournament, and secondly they lacked the facility to engineer offensive openings against a set defence (it says a lot that their try against the Kangaroos was a barge over on the line). They weren’t completely terrible, and they could have beaten the Kiwis twice (they should have in the first game) but they failed to deliver. (more…)

LIVE: England vs New Zealand

November 15, 2008

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A feeling of deja vu here… last week’s game was simultaneously closer than the scoreline suggests and yet also more one-sided than the scoreline suggests. If England don’t completely suck for the second half today, we could have quite a game on our hands. The teams:

England: Paul Wellens; Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Lee Smith; Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow; Jamie Peacock (c), James Roby, James Graham (c); Gareth Ellis, Ben Westwood, Rob Purdham.

Interchange: Leon Pryce, Adrian Morley, Mickey Higham, Jon Wilkin

New Zealand: Lance Hohaia; Sam Perrett, Simon Mannering, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei; Benji Marshall, Nathan Fien; Nathan Cayless (c), Thomas Leuluai,  Adam Blair; Sika Manu, David Fa’alogo, Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: Issac Luke, Greg Eastwood, Bronson Harrison, Sam Rapira.

Of course, England haven’t really done much to suggest that they can make the step up, but blind hope’s a powerful thing, isn’t it? Stil, at the very least it’s a good sign that England will at last be operating with two hookers. I still see the Kiwis sneaking it.


LIVE: England vs New Zealand

November 8, 2008

Okay, I’m still up… just. Now we get what is both the biggest game of the round and yet also one of the most meaningless, since we know that both these teams will probably be back to tango again next week. It’sa  curious flaw in the scheduling which seems rather obviously avoidable, but oh well. Here are the teams:

England: Wellens, Calderwood, Sykes, Senior, Smith, Gleeson, Burrow, Morley, Higham, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Purdham.

Replacements: Sinfield, Westwood, Hock, Langley.

New Zealand: Hohaia, Nightingale, Matai, Ropati, Vatuvei, Marshall, Leuluai, Blair, Fien, Tuimavave, Mannering, Fa’alogo, Smith.

Replacements: Luke, Eastwood, Kidwell, Harrison.

Very odd decisions for England. On the one hand, Purdham should have been in the seventeen from the start, but on the other playing Martin Gleeson instead of McGuire makes me wonder if Tony Smith is trying to build up a sense of overconfidence in New Zealand ahead of next week.


LIVE: Australia vs England

November 2, 2008

At last, here it is. The teams:

Australia: Billy Slater; Joel Monaghan, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Brent Tate; Darren Lockyer (c), Scott Prince; Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Steve Price; Glenn Stewart, Anthony Laffranchi; Paul Gallen.

Interchange: Brent Kite, Josh Perry, Anthony Tupou, Karmichael Hunt.

England: Paul Wellens; Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Mark Calderwood; Leon Pryce, Rob Burrow; Adrian Morley, James Roby, James Graham; Jamie Peacock, Gareth Ellis; Kevin Sinfield.

Interchange: Danny McGuire, Gareth Hock, Maurie Fa’asavalu, J Wilkin.

Some changes to note: Johnathan Thurston has been replaced by Scott Prince, no doubt to give Thurston time to pay respects to his dead uncle (EDIT: apparently it’s for a shoulder injury). For England, Adrian Morley has been promoted to the starting line-up, with Jamie Peacock dropping back to the second row and Gareth Hock to the bench.


England 32 – 22 Papua New Guinea: Aftermath

October 25, 2008

The result was never in doubt… once Lee Smith crossed for his hat-trick. Up until that point I was pretty much bricking it for a solid seventy minutes (gosh, what an unfortunate turn of phrase). In a fantastic game to open up the World Cup England really rode their luck against a clearly pumped Papua New Guinea side, and had to overcome a 16-12 half-time deficit before finally coming good to take home a 32-22 victory. Lee Smith picked up a hat-trick on his full debut for England, and Ade Gardner picked up a brace for himself, with Martin Gleeson England’s otehr try scorer from a nicely delayed Rob Burrow pass. The Kumuls did most of their damage with an offloading game that kept England on the back foot, and Rod Griffin, Jason Chan, George Kepa and Paul Aiton were able to take advantage of some pretty lacklustre (bordering on stupid) defensive efforts for the PNG tries. Kepa’s try from a dropped bomb had given the Kumuls their half-time lead, but England were eventually able to gather momentum in the second half and closed out the game once they got their noses in front.

The game had two crucial turning points, both at the start of the second half. The first one was Jason Nightingale’s disallowed try, which if it had been allowed would have given the Kumuls an eight point lead with the kick to come. I think England would still have found a way to come back, but with the extra pressure of chasing a two-score deficit can do funny things to a team and it also would have given the Kumuls the momentum they needed going into the closing stages. Talking of momentum, the other turning point came just after England pulled level as they chased a deep kick and managed to restrict PNG to a mere three metres progress in the set. It created an advantage in field position which England basically kept up for the rest of the game, and also signified an upping of the defensive intensity that finally kept the Kumuls in check (for the most part).

Were best friends, arent we Gareth?

"We're the best of friends, aren't we Gareth?"


LIVE: England Vs Papua New Guinea

October 25, 2008


note: please keep refreshing this page every so often, using the button at the top of your browser, or by pressing F5 [okay, you don’t have to do that any more].

At last, it’s almost here. I’ve got up, got a cup of coffee, turned on the TV, and I’m just waiting for the Air New Zealand Cup to get off the bloody screen.

The Teams:

England: Paul Wellens, Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Lee Smith, Leon Pryce, Rob Burrow, Jamie Peacock (c), James Roby, James Graham, Gareth Hock, Gareth Ellis, Kevin Sinfield.

Subs: Danny McGuire, Maurie Fa’asavalu, Adrian Morley, Jon Wilkin.

Papua New Guinea: John Wilshere (c), George Kepa, Jesse Joe Parker, Tu’u Maori, David Moore, Stanley Gene, Keith Peters, Makali Aizue, Paul Aiton, Trevor Exton, Neville Costigan, James Nightingale, Rod Griffin.

Subs: Rodney Pora, George Moni, Jason Chan, Charlie Wabo

Ah, good. The Union’s finishing. Just some ad breaks to navigate now…