League Express Mailbag : Monday 17th October

After all the moaning and bickering about ticket prices, marketing, squad numbers, kick-off times and so on, let’s just get behind the Rugby League World Cup and make it the biggest success that we can.
Will Morecombe, Prestatyn, Denbighshire

Your headline for last week’s League Express was ‘England Expects!’
Can I suggest that this week you might choose as your headline: ‘England Delivered!’.
Their 60-6 defeat of Samoa was as good a performance I’ve seen from an England game for many years.
I would imagine that many of the England internationals who have passed on to the Rugby League Hall of Fame in the Sky will have been looking down on Saturday and giving their approval to what they saw.
And perhaps it was they who intervened to cut out the noise before the game.
Maybe they just wanted a bit of peace and quiet to concentrate on what the England players were about to deliver.
Congratulations to them and to their coach Shaun Wane for showing us quite categorically that England have a great chance of winning our first World Cup since the great Clive Sullivan lifted the trophy in 1972.
David Jones, Ilkley

I have scoured the television schedules of BBC1 and BBC2 for the coming week prior to the first game of the World Cup.
I have found no World Cup preview at all, none whatsoever. Maybe it was on at 6.00am one morning.
The only thing I have seen are pathetic cartoon adverts. They are an insult to the intelligence of Rugby League supporters; they are childish and infantile.
Maybe the BBC are scared stiff the Rugby League autumn internationals would be forced into the background if the BBC gave the World Cup precedence. The RFU might get really upset with the BBC.
The build-up to the World Cup has been completely underwhelming.
After all the bother about Channel 4 and their coverage of Rugby League this season with IMG Productions on the credits, why couldn’t IMC have negotiated the World Cup?
John Wheeler, Sandbach, Cheshire

Referees often get a lot of stick in the Mailbag, so I thought it was worth writing to say how good I thought Ashley Klein was in the opening match of the World Cup.
I thought he got every decision right, including a few that I wasn’t convinced of until I’d seen the replay.
Hopefully this sets a standard for the rest of the tournament so your column space is dominated by the performances of the players in the same way England dominated Samoa in that game.
Iain Dalton, Leeds

Joking aside, how embarrassing was the loss of sound at the welcome ceremony at St James Park on Saturday?
The headline act only managed one song, none of the celebrities could be introduced and those of us in the stadium sat in total ignorance of what was happening.
For this to happen once is unfortunate, especially with the eyes of the country watching our sport on terrestrial TV, but this is the second major match where the loss of sound has led to an embarrassing silence.
I was at Anfield for the Australia v NZ match a few seasons ago, when the sound was lost during the national anthems.
Surely, in-depth sound checks should be carried out beforehand to prevent the game from constantly shooting itself in the foot.
I can’t recall any other sport being embarrassed at their major events for similar reasons.
Today, the media have all reported on the disrupted ceremony deflecting away from the powerful performance by the England team.
Let’s hope we can put these difficulties behind us and allow the rest of the tournament to be judged on the standard of the Rugby League that the teams produce.
Bill Riley, Leyburn, North Yorkshire

With regard to the embarrassing opening of the World Cup, in any other sport the incident would have been sorted out immediately instead of the debacle of doing nothing for the world to see.
Fair play to the Kaiser Chiefs for trying to keep fans happy while the organisers froze in the headlights on the biggest of stages!
Matthew Kelly, Plumstead, London

It was good to wake up on Sunday morning with everything in the Rugby League garden rosy, for a change – England’s amazing win over Samoa, the BBC fully on board with the game, the clubs in the form of the RL Council fully behind the principles of the IMG report, to name but three aspects of this positivity.
Could I just add two cautionary notes, though?
The first is not of huge import in itself, but personally pretty upsetting.
As a lifetime reader of The Guardian, I have become unhappily reconciled to the paper’s dramatically reduced coverage of the game in recent years, but at least reasonably assured that the coverage we do get is at least generally of decent quality.
And, for example, Aaron Bower’s piece on George Burgess in the edition on the day of the England v Samoa game was fully up to that standard.
But the general pre-tournament piece the day before was not. Bower included a dismissive throw-away comment on Ralph Rimmer, completely unsupported by rational argument, that, to me, represented an utterly illiberal viewpoint, grossly unfair to Rimmer, and completely uncalled-for within the aim of the piece published. Very disappointing!
My second is not a moan, but a heartfelt plea to whoever is making the important decisions about the future of the game.
I am pretty happy with the overall feel of the IMG report as it has been summarised in the media – though I don’t really see why we should not be allowed to see the report in its entirety, I would add in parenthesis. Of course, the final crunch will relate to precisely how the criteria for the club gradings are written. And it is in this respect that my plea lies.
It seems to me that, if the criteria for a club to be graded A do not include some element of performance on the field, the whole structure will become unacceptable to traditional followers of the game – and so will fail to achieve what it is intended to.
On the other hand, if such jeopardy does continue to exist, in a form that is meaningful, then I think that a package based on the report can give the game the healthy future that we are all desperate for. Existing supporters can get behind it, and new ones generated.
The case of Warrington in 2022 might make my point well, as an illustration.
Assuming that prior to the season they were a grade A club, but had finished 12th, rather than the 11th that they actually managed, in Super League, and even so they automatically remained a grade A club and so guaranteed a place in the top division for the following season, then the jeopardy that is part and parcel of sport in the UK would cease to exist – and, in my opinion, the structure would have no credibility.
If, though, they would lose their A grade as a result of the league placing – even though this in itself would not necessarily make them a tier 2 league club in the following season, given that they would presumably be competing with other grade B clubs for a tier 1 spot on other criteria still to be identified – then there could be respect for the structure, and the possibility of genuine growth as time goes on.
We await the production of the criteria with great trepidation!
Ian Wilson, Macclesfield

I read with the interest the preview on the World Cup, specifically the ‘most capped players’ for each team.
In the past 18 months the Rugby League Record Keepers’ Club (RKC) has been working with International Rugby League (IRL) to standardise international statistics, and on the back of this have prepared official stats for RLWC 2021.
This aligns treatment of matches, as individual nations have quirks in how they treat certain games for cap purposes, and links to the recognition of full Internationals by IRL.
I encourage everyone to use these consistently prepared stats going forward to bring some order to the chaos of international Rugby League. They are available on the RKC website, stats.rugbyleaguerecords.com, together with the official material for RLWC 2021.
For the record, England’s most appearances in the current squad is Ryan Hall, but with 38, not 39; Samoa’s is Junior Paulo (9; not Anthony Milford, 8) and France is Eloi Pelissier (18; not Ben Garcia, 12. In fact, Tony Gigot & Benjamin Jullien with 16 each, and Morgan Escaré, 13, also have more than Garcia). Daniel Tupou shares the lead for Tonga with Jason Taumalolo and Siliva Havili and Tinirau Arona was missing his Cook Islands total of 10.
Fiji are led by Kevin Naiqama with 20 (not Wes Naiqama, who is not in the squad, with 14), whilst for Scotland Dale Ferguson and Ben Hellewell are out front, but with 19 not 20; similarly Gieolo Celerino has 18, not 16 for Italy, Joe Brown 12, not 13 for Jamaica, Abbas Miski 9, not 10 for Lebanon, and Rhys Williams 30, not 31 for Wales.
I suspect some of these errors come from including friendly matches last weekend that were not Full Internationals.
Neil Ormston, Organiser, Rugby League Record Keepers’ Club

In response to Neil Ormston’s letter above as he points out alleged errors in your most capped international figures last week.
On Twitter, a post from the ‘Rugby League Records’ account last Saturday stated that it’s, “Obviously up to NGBs (national governing bodies) to decide what they cap” and that’s what it should be.
As previously discussed in Rugby League Express, Wales Rugby League award caps to players who have played for the full Wales side in an officially sanctioned international tournament, or friendly matches against international opponents who, like Wales, have declared that they are fielding their strongest available side, no matter how many substitutes are used.
This rule was decided by us in 2009 and everyone in WRL is in agreement to keep it as such.
So in our opinion, you were completely correct when you were preparing the page that Rhys Williams was Wales’ most capped player on 31. He won his 32nd cap on Saturday 8th October in the match against Lebanon (and I don’t blame anyone for leaving that out, as I suspect records were correct in the paper by Friday 7th).
Kyle Evans put on a Wales shirt and scored for Wales against Lebanon. For him and everyone in WRL, this is a big achievement and shouldn’t be ignored.
Would you want to take the honour of a Wales cap against an international side in a fully sanctioned international friendly off his record? I certainly wouldn’t and there are many online who agree with us.
After all, it’s about the players and their achievements, not people like me stuck in front of a laptop.
When a player pulls on a Welsh shirt against another country, they’re doing it for their country. For most, if not all, players, this is the highest honour.
For those born in Wales, from the first time they picked up a rugby ball, they dreamed of pulling on a red shirt and singing “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau”.
There will be tears in the eyes of some debutants, be it a friendly or a competitive match.
It’s about them, the players, giving in their all for their country, whether it’s for competition points or not. It’s for national pride, for personal pride. It’s Wales. It’s hwyl. It’s a cap. It counts.
Kyle Evans is a full Wales international player and Rhys Williams has won 32 caps.
Ian Golden, Communications and Profile Manager, Wales Rugby League

I have been a Rugby League fan and League Express reader for many years.
Years ago, when all Rugby League games were played on a Saturday, the national newspapers gave match reports, league tables and fixtures for the following Saturday.
Now we get nothing and that’s the reason for declining gate numbers.
Look at Australia, where they get massive crowds, even for ladies’ matches.
I am housebound now, but I used to watch two or three games a week and I would watch any team in any league.
Derek Middleton, Horsforth, Leeds

What superb timing ahead of the World Cup!
Our publicity is thin, to say the least. Substitute the word ‘Scousers’ or ‘Glaswegians’ for Fijians, and by now Mr Rimmer would have been contacted by the police or the DPP, and at very least been given a caution.
It was great timing to tell the world that our game, in the UK, is run by xenophobic halfwits.
An apology from someone with the status of Ellery Hanley, Kevin Sinfield or Kris Radlinski on behalf of England fans and its clubs would by a symbolic gesture.
Thank you to the Samoans, the Kiwis, the Green and Golds, PNG and every participating nation for bringing their skills, athleticism and cultures to our World Cup.
Michael Carolan, Wigan

We have now seen what IMG has to offer.
Basically, it is a closed shop for some (category A) and the rest made up and can be varied from season to season.
Category A teams will be guaranteed a place at the top table irrespective of their performance on the field. Haven’t we heard this before relating to a new European football league.
From the many letters in League Express issue of 3 October, it is obvious that the majority want promotion and relegation to be decided by results on the field rather than by selection from a few people who supposedly know what is best.
I have been supporting my club since the mid 1950s (before Murphy and Vollenhoven played for the first team). I have been a season ticket holder for donkey’s years.
But if this stupid idea of protecting some teams from relegation goes through in 2024, then 2023 will be my last.
If anybody wants to start a petition to stop this, then I will be glad to sign up.
John Lowe, Northwich