The 18th man column: Where was the publicity?

Joe Burgess takes the plaudits for England
Joe Burgess takes the plaudits for England

Is it me, or was the lack of advertising and complete absence of television coverage of the England v France game at the weekend just another slap in the face of rugby league in the UK?

We live in an age of hundreds of TV channels showing all sorts of events not to mention the internet options, and yet a deal could not be done to provide the game coverage to a wider audience. It beggars belief that the incompetence at RFL headquarters has not put paid to our sport altogether yet, but it feels like they are giving it a good go sometimes.

Before we signed away the TV rights, there were better financial offers on the table than Sky Sports. Premier Sports offered to also provide a ‘footy show’, like they do in Australia every week to sold out auditoriums with thousands of fans inside, whereas Sky have a table in the Sky Sports canteen, with Eddie and Stevo competing with the coffee machine behind them.

I think it is just another nail in the coffin lid of Rugby League in the UK and unless we change our approach to promoting our game, we will dwindle and fade away.

The actual game at the weekend turned out to be a warm-up run for the England team and although it would have been good to sort out some combinations, will do little to prepare them for the onslaught of the mighty New Zealand outfit.

I wonder if Steve McNamara will have the guts to stay with George Williams in the halves?

I hope so as young George has shown his worth this year and is going to be the future of our game for years to come. Well at least those who cannot make the game this weekend will have the chance to tune in at last and see a proper test of where we are at internationally.

I think that we have a real chance of upsetting the tourists and I am really looking forward to watching some young guns go at them

hard.

Darren Wrudd

*****

With the domestic season over it was all eyes on the international game at Leigh. We already knew that France were a depleted squad missing several regulars. But the scoreline emphasised it as England won by 84-4 in a one-sided game. There were nice debuts for Wigan’s Bateman, Burgess and Williams all getting on the score sheet. Bateman was outstanding – proving just why Wigan were keen to sign him up long-term. Williams proved just what a quality player he is going to be. But as I have stated before where and why was the game not given the publicity it deserves? We had on Premier Sports Leeds v New Zealand, a friendly with no purpose. Yet the powers that be have a full international not even on any channel. I cannot understand how the people at Red Hall work for publicising our great game. The RFL bosses have not got a clue when it comes to promoting the greatest sport on earth. Is it any wonder the sport is still regarded,as a northern-based game with a cloth cap image? They need to take examples from union and promote our sport before it dies on its feet. The real test for England is going to come in the shape of the Kiwis. So before we start building the national side up let’s see how they do against a top side. My money is for England to win the series even though I still think we are yards behind the Aussies.

Joe Charnock

*****

I must admit I enjoyed watching England play France at the weekend, despite the one sided nature of the 84-4 rout over France. A lot will be have been made about the poor quality of the French side but it was great to see an England side that was young, fit and athletic.

It leaves me quite excited at the prospect of not only the test series against New Zealand to come but also the next Rugby League World Cup, which is only two years away, and I speak as someone who was demoralised by the International game not so long ago.

The constant playing of Four Nations tournaments became nauseating for me. They were nice events in 2004, 2005 and 2006 as “Tri Nations”, with just the big three nations being involved, but adding the likes of France, Papua New Guinea and Wales made the events flatulent to say the least.

The repetitive nature became a chore as well and I’m glad this year that we have a three match test series to compete in against the Kiwis. I think it’s a disgrace to the game that an Ashes Series against Australia hasn’t been fought since 2003, and one isn’t happening until 2018 at the earliest, but I hope this is a first step towards bringing back those kinds of series more regularly.

I’m also excited by the squad. Like I said it’s young and full of potential. A far cry from England’s 2008 World Cup squad that included players like Paul Sykes, Rob Purdham, Maurie Fa’asavalu, Mark Calderwood, Jamie Langley, Ade Gardner and Lee Smith. With due respect to those, they hardly had long England careers but today you could see many of those playing this year being around for a long time ahead.

It was great to see a classy display from John Bateman, who Wigan tied up for at least three more years last week. He not only scored a hat-trick playing at centre but his best moment I thought was a great slip pass offload to get Ryan Hall over.

I must admit I’d leave him in the centres for this test series and I wouldn’t change the back line of Hardaker, Burgess, Watkins, Bateman, Hall, Williams and Widdop that played against France ahead of the First New Zealand test.

I know that means no Sam Tomkins but I don’t feel we need to risk a player who has an injury niggle and perhaps isn’t match fit either. Maybe if the first test is lost you have to go with him but I was happy with that back line. I’d definitely pick a fully fit Sam but I don’t see a desperate need to risk him if he isn’t 100 per cent.

Bilko