Talking rugby league: Effort is a given, England

James Graham went over for England but had a try ruled out by the video referees in London last Saturday
James Graham went over for England but had a try ruled out by the video referees in London last Saturday

I’M still waiting for this Test series to explode into life. I’m still waiting for England to click. As in, really click. To play the way we know – or we think – they can.

I’m still hoping they can take advantage of this golden chance – the home advantage and the fact they have more of their frontline players available – and claim a rare series win.

While I congratulated

England for their win at Hull on the opening Test, I was hugely underwhelmed by the display at London.

Yes, they defended well and yes, there was plenty of effort.

But they should be ‘givens’ at this level, right?

Surely we’re not being greedy to expect more from the best players in the country.

More points, more composure, less errors.

We’ve got some really talented outside backs in Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall and Joe Burgess and we’ve rarely seen them in open play. They’ve been asked to feed on scraps. The conservative ploy of going down the middle so often worked for England in the first Test.

But on Saturday, the Kiwis bunched up, ramped up and combatted the physical battle.

This Saturday, in the third and final Test, England won’t just need better execution, but more variety and better shape when they have the chances.

In their favour, they should have a raucous crowd cheering them on at the DW.

London’s Olympic Stadium was fun for what it was, but the sprawling lay-out wasn’t conducive to a good atmosphere.

It felt like it was on neutral


No danger of that this Saturday at the DW.

Sure, the ground can be soul-less at times for low-key games, but not when there’s a big crowd on. Not when it’s a high-stakes game.

This will feel like a Wigan-Saints derby, on Red Bull.

And England really need to use that to their advantage – and not let this chance slip through their fingers.

IMAGINE if Slash, the accomplished guitarist, was asked to play in the Pet Shop Boys.

His talent was obvious but he didn’t suit their boring style. And when the Pet Shop Boys didn’t reach No.1 with Slash at the helm, well... it was all his fault.

Now replace Slash with Sam Burgess, and the Pet Shop Boys were rugby union, and you have my take on his cross-code switch!

I’m made up Sam is back where his talents will shine the brightest.

THERE was one shock about Ryan Hampshire’s move to Castleford on loan – that he would return to Wigan to battle for the halfback role.

He clearly feels his future lies in the creative hub of the side, rather than at full-back.

And his spell at the Tigers should give him time to play in that role – at that level – before taking a crack at the positions occupied by Matty Smith and George Williams (who both, by the way, have long-term deals at Wigan). Sure, it’s disappointing Sam Tomkins’ return to the club has been delayed until Easter.

But I’m quite relaxed about the full-back berth until then.

The emergence of teenage centre Oliver Gildart gives Shaun Wane the option of moving Dan Sarginson to the No.1 role, a position where he has often impressed, or the under-used Lewis Tierney.

THE ‘unity’ feel of sport, that unmistakable sense of family, is felt the most when something awful happens.

Which is why, when our colleague Gary Carter was left fighting the biggest battle of his life after an attack in London last week, it hit us all. Hard.

Gaz is well-known to all of us here on the sports desk. He covers Latics and Warriors for The Sun and other papers, including this one from time-to-time. I was with him last Wednesday at the England training base. Laughing, chatting, speculating.

A couple hours later, after I’d got home, he called. “Did you see Watkins or Farrell at training?”

I hadn’t. In truth, I hadn’t even noticed their absence. But he’s sharper than me.

He chased the story, and there was nothing in it – they were somewhere else while we were with the bulk of the squad. But that typified his eagle-eye and goes some way to explaining why he is one of the most respected journalists among us.

As a bloke, he’s witty, modest and cheerful. If he knew about the nice words being said, he’s no doubt say, ‘give over’.

But it shows how highly he is regarded. My thoughts and prayers are with him, his wife Gemma, and all their family and friends.