Will It Be Same Again Rugby Group?

Well christmas came and went, and January has passed us by and we are now into Feburary, so that means that summer rugby is back. This blog will give you some things i think will happen this year

Bradford will finish in the bottom 3. For the last 3 years the Bulls have been gradually getting worse and after losing their best forward in Andy Lynch, a injury list that would not be out of place on holby city, and a squad full of released players from other clubs, this WILL be the Bulls worst ever season. On the subject of the Bradford club, how did they get another 3 years if they had to get the RFL to buy Odsal?

Sky will continue to overhype 80% of the games they will show, talking them up like what you have just seen was in the top 3 games of all time beacause it ended up 38-42 or something daft like that.

The Grand Final will be won by 1 of the big 4, why? Because super league wont change anytime soon in its present format.

Any shock results will take place early on in the season, be prepeared to see “the big teams” lose to “the lesser teams” before the season begins to take shape around May/Jjune time

And finally this blogger to proably slag super league more often than not, than praise it!!!

When does the NRL start?

How do we close the ever growing gap?

So yet again we enter a final with so much hope and belief that we can end 40 years of hurt against our friends from Australia, only to be leaving the ground with that same feeling of “we are just simply not good enough”.
In my opinion we will never be a dominant force in international Rugby League. The simple fact is that ten times more people play Rugby League in Australia than in England and they will always produce more world class players because of this, its just simple mathematics! I thought James Roby was very good against the Aussies and is world class, but would he get in the Australian team in front of Cameron Smith? No. In fact I think the only English players that would are Gareth Ellis and a fit Sam Burgess. I do however think we can do more as a nation to help ourselves to enable us to close the gap. I think we need more of our players playing in the NRL to sample the week in week out intensity instead of a tough game one week, followed by three bankers that they don’t need to get out of second gear to win. Now as much as it pains me to say it, I think we need to take a leaf out of the Rugby Union book and employ an elite squad system to enable us to keep hold of our top young players and halt the exodus to the 15 a side code. I know this was tried in the past with Cunningham and Radlinski which caused player jealousy and rightly so when its just a couple of players. However if we had an elite squad of 20 or 30 players that were selected on form, I feel it would only be healthy for the sport in this country. I firmly believe in the salary cap for the stability of the clubs as it stops idiots with ideas above their station taking over at clubs and doing a “Ridsdale”!! However when it comes to keeping our best players we simply cant compete with the cash banded around in RU, but if a player in the Elite squad was given a ‘top up’ by the RFL they could be persuaded to stay. The top up wouldn’t count against the salary cap as the player is in the elite squad. i.e. If Wigan only have room in the salary cap to offer Sam Tomkins £250.000 and RU can offer him £350.000, why cant the RFL top up the £100.000 to keep him in our code.
Rugby is only a short career and most players will ditch loyalty for cash any day of the week. Look at Joel Tomkins who has never shut up about how proud he is to be a Wigan player yet dropped them in a heartbeat for the pound signs. We spend a small fortune and put years of development into these young players only for RU to flash the cash and they’re gone.

I’m not suggesting that this is the answer to everything but we need to do everything we can to close that gap and surely an England Rugby League Team with Chris Ashton, Kyle Eastmond and Joel Tomkins in it, is better than one without them!
An elite squad would give players an extra goal at the start of each season to try and secure a spot in it and achieve their maximum earning potential and if every player is giving another 10% every week than the standard of the competition would also gradually improve.

You cant tell me that a genuine Rugby League player would rather play Union. It is cash and cash only that they go for.

In a perfect world everyone would have the morals of Kevin Sinfield who has no doubt sacrificed more cash for achieving success in Rugby League but its not a perfect world and in sport money talks. On a final note. to everyone out there who says that throwing money at players is not the answer, get ready for another 40 plus years of disappointment because if nothing is done sooner rather than later the list of ex RL boys playing Rugger Yawnion at twickers is going to get longer and longer.

Not so near but so far away!

Same old same old England, same old excuses given in interviews. Does 80 minutes of Rugby League really tell us why we have come up short against Australia again and again? Isn’t history just showing us that we have to change the way we play the game in Super League. Yet again the English team have flattered to deceive on the big stage when a game “really” matters. In previous blogs I’ve been very critical of Super League and the way the game is percieved by the public and after tonights game I stand by my comments more than ever. These include the need for one set of rules for the game, the all out attack mentality for Super League, the lack of intensity in Super League, the length of the English season, the bringing in of ex-pat players showing the percieved lack of English talent, all now must come under scrutiny as we are slipping further behind.

Kevin Sinfield has played 10 more games than any more australian based NRL winner and im sure as great as his season has been, I bet he hasnt played in as many pure intence game than any ozzie player playing less games. We make errors because we play at such a speed where the game is based on all out attack, when the game is played faster, players will score more tries but players will make more errors. Too many clubs are full of journeyman players and ex pats who simply dont add any value to the comp over here.

I feel like i could just repeat myself in this blog and go on and on but i will leave you with this thought, if we ever want to continue to try win world cups, four nations, and be a force at the top table, maybe we should bite the bullet and admit that as a product Super League is great to watch for pure excitment and end to end games. But when it comes to international rugby its no help what so ever!! defence and respecting the ball wins matches was how I was brought up on rugby in the late 80s early 90s, is it time to go back to basics if we are to become a force…

Englands 39 years of hurt can be over tomorrow!

England Rugby League have a marvelous opportunity on Saturday at Elland Road to win the Four Nations and finally lay all those ghosts to rest after 39 years of hurt! Remember Ricky Stuart breaking everyone’s hearts in 1990, Steve Renouf doing the same in the 92 World Cup Final, the 2nd & 3rd tests of 94 after Johnathan Davies & co had helped win the first at Wembley, the 95 World Cup Final, the 2004 & 2009 Four Nations Finals!

England have assembled their strongest squad for years on the back of Steve Mcnamara’s highly controversial decision to select Australian raised Englishmen in Jack Reed & Chris Heighington and Kiwi Rangi Chase who qualifies on residency. With star hooker James Roby bossing what some say is a superior English pack containing battle hardened forwards like Jamie Peacock & Adrian Morley and one of the NRL’s star player in Gareth Ellis. Sam Tomkins has proved the doubters wrong tand shown he can deliver on the world stage with Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe aiding and abetting him no one could argue that Englands back three is the strongest we’ve seen for a long time. A lot depends on how Kevin Sinfield performs tomorrow, he is an exceptional leader who seems to have found his form with the boot against New Zealand. His kicking performance both in play and from conversions will be decisive in who gets the result at Elland Road tomorrow. This combined with all of the superior Sports Science, prepartion, tighter team bonding, new found self-belief and lets not forget no Billy Slater gives England their best chance of winning and defeating Australia in a series for the first time since the World Cup in 1972.

England biggest by by no means only worry will be Darren Lockyer, playing his last game of Rugby League ever. The man is a legend in Rugby League and it will take one monumental performance to keep him quiet, England can do it but only if their pack can dominate. But don’t reckon on him even contemplating finishing off being known as a losing Australian Captain. What about the rest of the Australians? Well as mentioned Billy Slaters out and thats a big bonus for England. So its just a matter of containing the likes of rock solid Prop Paul Gallen, world class hooker Cameron Smith, exhilerating Winger Uate, Johnathan Thurston and not to mention Jharal Yow Yeh on debut!!! These players all play State of Origin every year and know that they have it within themselves to find that bit extra, they are supremely self-confident and possess better core skills than the English. Like a python choking its prey they constrict a team by playing a relentlessly disciplined brand of football interspersed with some sublme moments of skill that us mere English mortals can only dream of. These boys won’t give up they will keep going until 79.59 minutes have passed and it will take a monumental effort for the English boy to beat them.

Steve McNamara has to be credited with the brand of Rugby he has got England playing. You can’t just complete your sets against the Aussies, because they’ll still beat you. England have got to ask questions of them and put them under pressure, both in attack and defence and with the boot. Lets hope England can get the balance right between controlling the game and trying to win it. The crowd will give England the extra man and lets hope the referee gives a straight up performance. it promises to be a mouthwatering encounter and lets just hope that England have got themselves into a good position, can now go that extra mile and find a way to win when it gets tough!

Betting wise you can get 9/2 England with betfair, which looks like an excellent bet in a two horse race. You can also get a 12 point start off even money on England which looks pretty tasty as well.

Referee appointment could prove crucial!

Matt Cecchin’s appointment as referee could be a crucial decision and it has to be hope that the Australian puts in a professional performance and isn’t afraid to take tough decisions. Would he send Tony williams off if he goes headhunting again? For all the sports science, coaching camps and team bonding the RFL they have to take some criticism for not appointing a neutral referee. It seems to be a recurring theme in international series over the years that the RFL backs downto Australias demands over refereeing. You have to admire Tim Sheens for being a doing a ‘Ferguson’ and criticising Phil Bentham. Sadly Steve McNamara seems to have shot himself in the foot with his comments about Henry Perenara, Perenara had a poor game but I’d still rather him than an Aussie! Lets hope our boys can still.

England Expects, But What If We Lose?

What if we lose on Saturday night i hear you ask? Where do we go then? Who do we blame? What about the players and staff? what about the powers that be in charge at Redhall? What about the fans? The title of this blog has taken me a while to think of and i dont want to be all negative, but someone has to be dont they? I have watched for the last few weeks how England have performed both on and off the pitch, from player performance on the pitch to the mundane interviews players and management give out in the lead up to the weekend games through the week. All the signs have been fairly positive and players say the right things,

Last week we ran Australia close, and many believe that 2 decisions cost us the match, in a high tackle that should have been a sending off and a try that should not have been a try, maybe they would have, maybe they wouldnt, we will never know. We probably scored the bast 2 tries of the game through Ryan Hall, but the tries we conceded could and should have been stopped, But hey we were playing the Aussies and its great to run them close isnt it? Well maybe for some. We now come to what i think its the biggest game for England in many a year, A match against the Kiwis for a place in the final at Elland Road, If we win all is rosey in the garden and everyone is happy as we are a final, but if we lose the questions i stated earlier will need answering, and need publicly answering!! If you go back to when we where shown up in OZ in the 2008 world cup, in the aftermath that came out, everything was going to be aimed at the 2013 world cup to be held over here in England and Wales. We have the four nations to build up to the so called pinicle of our game. We have had youngsters like Tomkins,and Hall come through in that time and show up on the biggest stage well after coming through the junior ranks and playing very well in super league, and we have had the majority of the Burgess clan out in the NRL, but where are the rest of the up and coming youngsters in and around the squad learning and buliding towards 2013? Most are playing and have been representing England linons/b team/reserves in pointless matches, nowhere near the leval of what the next step us meant to be. Will we be going into 2013 with Peacock and Morley still as our best options at the age they are? Will Sinfield be our 1st choice 6? Will the players brought in to replace them have any major experiance, or will we just hope to find some more so called ex pats? Will Redhall brush over everything by saying that we have shown we can be competative and have shown we can play at that leval, but not ask the real questions about why we are not trying to build the right way, and continuing to play the old faithful who as great as they have been are now nearly past it. These type of player should be in the squad helping youngsters and guiding them, but not now as international players. Knowing the profit mongers at the RFL i wont hold my breathe tho for any changes, just more hype in how good we can be……

Lets hope whatever happens the game on saturday brings more people into watching than turning their backs on yet another loss.

England hope to set the tournament alight on bonfire night!

The talk coming from the England camp in the build up to tomorrows Four Nations International reminds me a little bit of what I heard from Kevin Sinfield and co in the build up to the Play Off Semi Final v’s Warrington. I get the sense that England think they can do this and to me its a very positive sign. My own thoughts on the game prior to this week were pretty much the same as every body else in Rugby League…. the Kangaroos would tear us apart! The general consensus is that the Aussies are a seemingly unstopable team with strike players the likes of Slater, Uate & Inglis possessing supernatural abilities forged in the inferno that is State of Origin. Combine this with unshakeable self belief and a knack for getting out of tricky situations then the odds are seemingly against England.

But sport is unpredictable, Buster Douglas who took the world heavyweight title off Mike Tyson in 1990 remarked before the fight, “You can’t measure desire!” You only have to look at what John Kear did with Sheffield Eagles at Wembley in 1998 to see what self-belief can do for a team. From what I’ve heard coming out of the England camp these guys have got it & although in typically English manner they’ve held back from shouting it from the rooftops these guys BELIEVE they can win it. Not think they can, not that they would like to, they genuinely believe it! & that is all that matters!!! Added to that the occassion of Wembley should give England a chance.

So how can England do it? Well its going to have to be a disciplined team performance that sticks to a very tight game plan where England exert pressure on the Aussies by completing their sets and employing a strong kicking game. This will give us a shout, then its up to the likes of Tomkins and Chase to come up with a match winning play. Pound for pound in the forwards we are the equal of the Aussies. This is where England can win the game. If James Roby can open up some gaps around the ruck & the English pack complete their sets and retain possession then where in with a chance. In the end it comes down to whether we can keep our powder dry and not try to score of every set. Last week against Wales we were poor at this but I’m backing us to be a whole lot better than last week. The next major aspect is the kicking game and this is one facet where the Aussies have got the upper hand on us. It has to be hoped that the English pack can retain enough possession and Sinfield deliver the performance of his life to keep them under pressure. Lets hope McNamara doesn’t regret leaving Danny Brough out. In the backs Slater, Lockyer and Uate are awesome players but England have plenty of guile in Tomkins & Chase and Ryan Halls no slouch. For me the battle of the backs much tilts on how Greg Inglis performs & he’s been out injured for 2 months. If it were any other player I would be worried but Greg Inglis is such a freak you can only expect a big performance!

England have got a chance tomorrow and I won’t right them off like many others I think it will be pretty close and they will give a good account of themselves. You can get 7′s on England betfair and in a 2 horse race thats good odds, if you fancy a flutterstick a fiver on that or if your a bit more conservative put it on the Aussies to win by less than 12.5 at 3.4′s.

Time for one set of rules!

Unhappy Australia coach Tim Sheens launched a scathing attacking on the standard of refereeing of their opening Four Nations win over New Zealand. Sheens described the referees’ performance as ‘poor’ and criticised the RFL for not consulting with the coaches over the interpretation of the rules. New Zealand coach Steve Kearney also raised the point when questioned stating that this had contributed to a poor game. I think the problem was having Super League referees try to implement International rules that they don’t put into practise every week. A few of the differences being that in Super League referees allow a quicker play the ball and penalising teams that interfere at the ruck, Whereas NRL referees are more lenient. This means that in the NRL attacking players have to create space rather than rely on defensive errors as in Super League. The NRL are also used to having two referees on the pitch at the same time, with one policing the ruck and the other the defensive line. This works really well and isn’t noticeable when watching NRL or State of Origin. Also in Super League there are two sets of rules, one if your teams on Sky with a Video Referee and one if your not on Sky with no Video Referee. In theory we have 3 different types of rules for played in 2 hemispheres for our 1 great game. Is this the reason why not an International tournament seems to go by without an argument from one country over the interpretation of the rules? Isn’t it about time we all played Rugby league under one form of rules?

Who is would be in charge of implementing one set of rules? The International Board?…… The NRL?….Super League? …. Stevo? ……. League Express?