Talking RL: 'It's Great Britain and Ireland'... or is it?

'Great Britain to return', started the press release from the RFL.

Thursday, 7th March 2019, 1:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th March 2019, 2:33 pm
Brian Carney playing for Great Britain and Ireland

And across rugby league land, metaphorical fists pumped the air.

Sure, the Aussies don't want to play - running scared, maybe? - and yes, it's taken way too long to get this over the line.

But after 12 years, the Lions are back. And many of those weened on seeing stars playing in different variations of the distinctive white, red and blue shirts - the Schofields and Hanleys through to Sculthorpes and Carneys - rejoiced.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Yet in its absence, something seems to have got lost. It's name.

The press release referred to the team as 'Great Britain' and the '2019 Rugby League Lions'. The logo has no mention of Ireland.

I remember, as a cub reporter, Brian Carney correcting me when I asked him about playing for Great Britain.

"It's Great Britain and Ireland," he cut in.

Several years later, he is still correcting people.

"It's Great Britain and Ireland - unless they changed it and didn't send me the memo," said Carney, now a Sky Sports pundit. "An independent country, Ireland, is part of this make-up."

He's right.

The very same media release in which the team is called only 'Great Britain' also included a quote from Barry Coade, chairman of Rugby League Ireland, who said: “We are delighted that Great Britain & Ireland will tour again this autumn."

So Ireland-qualified players do qualify for this autumn's squad.

So why aren't Ireland in the official name?

Apparently, it's something to do with the 'British and Irish Lions' name belonging to the rugby union outfit. So to avoid confusion, and possibly a legal row, the name has been shortened to 'Great Britain'.

Why does it matter? you may ask. In fact, the way it's shaping, there probably won't be any Irish-qualified players who would make the squad (and oh how we wish this was a few years ago, when Pat Richards was still at Wigan).

Indeed, while the long-overdue confirmation of GB's return was welcomed by many, a few others have questioned the point when it may just be England competing by a different name.

Wigan’s Welsh prop Ben Flower and St Helens winger Regan Grace could be contenders, of course.

And - for what it's worth - I would have no issue with Scotland’s Aussie-born players being considered, too.

Yes, I’ve previously been critical of England calling on overseas players who qualify through their ancestry, but hear me out.

When I spoke to Steve McCormack – Wiganer, ex-Scotland coach, all-round good egg – recently, he pointed out that when he was in charge of the Bravehearts, their Aussies did it for the right reasons.

“Honestly, they got pocket money,” said McCormack. “They were away from their families for five weeks, they sacrificed holidays, weddings, operations, all sorts...”

For me, they’ve proved their commitment to their Scottish heritage.

So if players like Lachlan Coote and Euen Aitken warrant selection, that’d be fine by me.

Wow. Is exactly how I reacted to Wigan’s defeat at London Broncos on Sunday.

I had to file a match report on the full-time whistle and as the Warriors pressed for a late winner at Ealing, trailing by two points, I was poised with the opening line: ‘A N Other spared Wigan’s blushes...’

Nobody did spare Wigan’s blushes.

London dug deep for each other – they deserve lots of credit – as the visitors struggled to conjure anything which troubled the hosts’ line.

Yes, I get it will take time to settle into a new style – but that explanation doesn’t forgive the penalties and errors which littered their display. And yes, Wigan were missing nine players who would have played but to be clear, he side they had out had more than enough firepower to get the win.

Adrian Lam said a few didn’t step up. And was George Williams distracted by the fresh interest from the NRL?

Only he knows the answer to that, but the sooner his future is finalised – and announced – the better for all.

Sunday was my first trip to London Broncos’ Trailfinders Sports Ground home.

It is a tidy, tiny ground with most of the fans in stands behind the sticks. This being a rugby union ground, the hospitality is good – IPA on tap, Lavazza coffee and a fish n’ chips stand.

The location of the press seats raised some eyebrows. We were positioned in a cabin above the home bench – which would have been fine, if the windows didn’t mist up and scaffolding didn’t block part of the view to my right!

But none of the hacks took it seriously, they realised the Broncos are still discovering teething problems since their return to Super League, and the warm welcome they offered matched the spirit the players showed on the pitch.

London helped make it a memorable weekend for the neutrals (how good was Wakefield’s game against Leeds on Friday night, with seven of the 10 tries scored by wingers?And what about Catalans’ thrilling win against Warrington?). Good luck to the Broncos for the rest of the season.

They impressed me on and off the pitch and it’s great to see them back in Super League.

It's world book day today.

I honestly can't remember the Wigan player I interviewed for a programme Q&A years ago, but the conversation went like this...

Me: "Favourite book?"

Him: "I've never read one."

Me: "Well, many films are based on books, what's your favourite film?"

Him: "Armageddon."