TALKING SPORT - Heartbreak for England was agony to watch

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CRUEL doesn’t cover it. Not even close.

For all the years of false dawns, for all the other occasions England or Great Britain have been so dramatically denied, none left me with the same sense of drained, disappointed, stabbed-in-the-heart, dog-just-died misery as I experienced at Wembley on Saturday.

England’s pack was phenomenal, and the 2.8m BBC viewers must have been enthralled from start to finish.

In reflection, many have pondered a few ‘if onlys’. If only Ben Westwood, Sean O’Loughlin and Ryan Hall had been able to finish try-scoring chances. If only George Burgess hadn’t gifted the Kiwis a late penalty. If only Kevin Sinfield hadn’t raced out of the line.

I have another: If only stand-off Gareth Widdop had been given more than 40 minutes of action during the entire tournament before Saturday – maybe his partnership with Sinfield would have been even better than it was.

TWO weeks ago, I suggested people may not believe coach Steve McNamara from now on, after he used “personal issues” to try and cover up Zak Hardaker’s disciplinary problems.

Last week, after dropping Rangi Chase, he said the Kiwi-born halfback didn’t travel to Wembley with the rest of the squad because “he wanted to spend time at home”.

Point proven.

McNamara is a nice bloke who means well, but they are not strong enough credentials for a Test coach. If they were, I’d be in with a shout. Just imagine what Shaun Wane would do with those players at his disposal. Over to you, RFL.

I’VE been a huge fan of this World Cup. It’s been an overwhelming success. But let’s stop pretending there are four strong rugby league playing nations, because there aren’t.

In the years in between, the international federation should revive the Tri-Nations, which saw England (as GB) face the Kiwis twice, the Aussies twice, with a final on top.

All games would be epic, and the team with a week off could go and face France, Fiji, or another developing nation.

WHAT a night Thursday could be for Latics.

If they qualify for the next round then it would certainly be another moment to rank in of the club’s “greatest ever” category – and there have certainly been a few of those.

If Maribor fail to beat Rubin Kazan, then Owen Coyle’s side know a victory would be enough to secure progress to the knock-out stages – with a game in hand.

How many times do we stop and say “only Wigan”?

Qualifying for the knock-out stages of an elite European competition – while in the second-tier – would be another of those moments. And it would certainly wipe away the frustrations of their defeat against Brighton – their first home loss of the season – last weekend.

AFTER the controversy of Carl Froch’s win against George Groves, I’ll repeat what I’ve long thought: boxing is its own worst enemy.

At it’s best, it’s a fantastic sport. Just imagine how big and good it could be if it was run with the same slick efficiency of the NRL or NFL, UFC or Uefa. Instead, fighters’ wage demands dictate the schedule, and big fights are shrouded by questions of integrity.