Talking RL: Will it be a case of double delight?
I've spoken to enough athletes over the years to know a feeling they can't stand is helplessness.
Whether that’s being banned or being injured – “I just want to be out there, helping my mates” – or, in England’s case, knowing their final hopes are out of their hands.
England could win their next two games and not reach the decider at Anfield.
They not only need to beat the Aussies, they need to hope other results go their way.
A recap: we want England to beat Scotland by a landslide in the first of tomorrow’s double-header, and then – either – the Aussies to post a big score against New Zealand, or the Kiwis win.
The return of George Williams should add an attacking threat to a solid England side. The Scots won’t lack effort but their pack lacks Super League and NRL experience, so I’m predicting a late onslaught.
And if the second game pans out as I expect (close early on, before the Kiwis fade) it will be one of those weird encounters when England fans switch allegiance midway through!
Which should make it an interesting evening of rugby league in Coventry.
Yep, that sentence still sounds wrong.
That was my response when I saw the venue had been picked, though my colleague Paul Kendrick assures me it’s a terrific stadium so I’m reserving judgement for now.
But on Four Nations venues, the crowd of 5,337 in Hull for Scotland’s opener against Australia begged the question: Why wasn’t it played in Scotland?
No-one is suggesting people north of the border have much interest in league – they don’t – but surely a modest crowd in Edinburgh would have been more respectable than 5,000 in a hotbed city for the sport.
And who’s to say they couldn’t have made it a success? Remember, a 7,000-plus crowd watched USA play the Cook Islands in Bristol during the World Cup three years ago.
With all due respect to Hull (and I have a soft spot for the city of ‘chip spice’) but the Aussie tourists and ex-pats may have enjoyed Edinburgh more.
While our media has focused on England, the overseas journalists are obsessing about rivalry between Mal Meninga and Wayne Bennett.
Yep, yep, I know: it seems the Aussies’ abilities for producing poor soaps knows no limits.
But it’s all good fun, and should produce an interesting sub-plot to next week’s Test.
Today marks 10 years since Great Britain’s last win against Australia.
None of the current England players were in that memorable match in Sydney (highlights video attached), which is a sobering thought. But I’m more embarrassed by the lack of opportunities they’ve had.
In the last five years, England have played against the Green and Gold a total of – drumroll please – twice.
Yep, two games since the 2011 Four Nations finished. It’s shameful.
Especially when you consider the appetite for top-level internationals (England’s Test against New Zealand had an average BBC audience of 1.2m, peaking at 2m).
What other business gives such short supply to such incredible demand?
My old media teacher used to say the easiest way of telling a newspaper or TV show’s audience was by looking at the adverts.
The logic being the businesses spending money know who’s watching. I was reminded of that advice when I noticed rugby union’s autumn international series is about to begin.
The league Four Nations is sponsored by Ladbrokes.
The union series? Old Mutual Wealth.
Finally, good luck to Lee Mossop at Salford.
Mossop has not been able to rekindle his best form since returning from an injury-hit season at Parramatta (in fairness, all of the players who have returned from spells away have had awful luck with injuries).
I’ve always found ‘Moose’ terrific to deal with. I hope the change of scenery will do him good. His exit, so soon after Dom Crosby’s move to Warrington, has prompted questions about whether Shaun Wane will bring in reinforcements. I wouldn’t rule it out, though as it stands, he still has a squad with plenty of cover and competition.