I spent the back-end of last week at a friend’s wedding and, as such, my colleague Paul Kendrick went along to listen to the RFL’s ‘bid’ for the 2021 World Cup.
I use the term ‘bid’ loosely. Despite the slick presentation at Old Trafford, this isn’t the Olympics or football World Cup. Since 2000 the rugby league World Cups have been staged in:
Australia & New Zealand (‘08)
Australia & New Zealand (‘17).
It wouldn’t exactly be a wild bet to suggest it is heading back to these shores in 2021! I doubt anyone believes the talk of rival pitches from South Africa and USA would be seriously considered. The RFL’s chief executive, Nigel Wood, made the case for the UK’s World Cup bid. Isn’t he also the chairman of the Rugby League International Federation, the body which makes the decision?
I’ve heard the phrase slung around quite a lot this season.The main basis for the claim is the league table. It’s too settled.
With three rounds to go, we pretty much know which four teams are going down into the Qualifiers, or ‘middle-8s’ as they are better known.And at the other end, it’s hard to see the top four slipping from those play-offs spots. Maybe last season’s ‘down to the wire’ race set the bar too high. But look at the identity of the teams. Aside from Wigan, the other three sides in the top four have never won a Grand Final. And the only team condemned to the Qualifiers so far are treble-winners Leeds, though Huddersfield – a regular play-offs side in recent years, league leaders in 2013 – are set to join them.
Given Super League has persistently been accused of being boring because ‘it’s the same sides every year...’, I find the current situation quite refreshing.
Even if every minute doesn’t matter.
The phrase ‘old head on young shoulders’ would be apt for Greg Burke – and not just because he looks to be in his 40s!
I remember first interviewing him after his debut in 2013, and being impressed by his assured, thoughtful answers.
He showed a maturity beyond his years. And that stretches to his life away from rugby – he loves Guns ‘n Roses, Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen. And on ‘proper’ LPs, not digital downloads.
A whole-hearted player, he’s grafted well for Wigan this year – I wish him all the best at Widnes.
Sam Tomkins’ return has added polish to an attack which had stalled for large parts of this season.
He has been widely praised, and he’s not the only one: John Bateman, Ben Flower, Dom Manfredi, Oliver Gildart, Ryan Sutton... all have taken the plaudits at various stages.
I’d like to throw another name in the mix.
When Micky McIlorum suffered a serious ankle injury in February, there were many who – understandably – questioned whether Powell would be up to the demands.
Which is not an insult: it would be a big ask for anyone to play so many minutes, in so many games, at hooker.
But Powell’s development has been so pleasing to see, and his tough, terrier-like defence at Catalans underlined his growing value to the side.
Of all the decisions made by the disciplinary, I found the one to give St Helens reserve player Tony Suffolk only a five-game ban for his death-roll ‘tackle’ on Wigan’s Sam Brady the most shocking.