TALKING SPORT - I want to like Exiles idea, but it isn’t working

Gareth Hock

Gareth Hock

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TRAILING 18-10 and with three minutes to go, I watched Exiles player Anthony Laffranchi share a small joke with one of his Exiles team-mates on the Langtree Park sidelines last Saturday evening.

And I couldn’t get the thought out of my head: If Laffranchi was still playing for Australia, and they were down eight points to England with three minutes to go, would he still have been doing the same?

Look, please don’t mistake this as a criticism of a decent player doing a decent job. It’s not his fault, or any of the Exiles’ fault, that they don’t represent anything or any one country.

The sole purpose of the Exiles’ existence is to help England out. That’s it.

Sure, the foreigners taking part want to play. It’s a game, they’re athletes, that’s what they love to do.

And spending a week in camp and testing themselves against England is not a bad gig.

But it isn’t a Test match. And that’s why Saturday’s game had the intensity of a testimonial match.

Compare it to the previous Wednesday’s State of Origin, and there is no comparison. I had to watch that Origin game from behind my sofa, it was that brutal!

By contrast, the Exiles game was only occasionally exciting and never gripping. From my vantage point, it appeared a good section of the 11,000 crowd opted to do a big shop at the nearby Tesco instead.

I want to like the concept. I want it to be a success.

In theory, the idea of England playing against Super League’s best Aussies and Kiwis sounded great, and last year’s inaugural game had promise.

The RFL deserve credit for trying it out.

But last Saturday’s contest was not a success, and the injury to Thomas Leuluai provided a stark reminder to Super League coaches of the potential risks involved.

Unless game two next month explodes into life, I can’t help think it may be time to have a rethink.

WHAT’S wrong with this list of Uefa fines?

£45,000 Spain 2004 (racism); £16,500 Serbia 2007 (racism); £10,000 Croatia 2008 (racism), £80,000 Nicklas Bendtner (exposing part of underpants as he celebrated a goal).

Some people in some very high positions have got some very questionable priorities.

LATICS player James McArthur has made good use of his off-season.

He is currently doing a charity bike ride to raise money for a Scottish hospital. It’s a great effort, which should be applauded. Shame, then, that he had to re-plan his route because he wasn’t allowed on the train, taking him to the starting point, with his bike!

MESSAGE to Sky Sports/RFL: The new football fixtures are out.

Latics play just once at home during the period of the Super League play-offs. Against Fulham on Sep 22. Any chance we can avoid a clash?