England coach shows single-minded vision

Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler

England coach Shaun Wane is both highly motivated and quite frustrated.

He is obviously motivated by the prospect of coaching England in this autumn’s World Cup in his home country.

But, as a coach, he is also frustrated by the fact that he hasn’t actually coached a Rugby League side on the pitch since he won the Grand Final with Wigan in 2018.

You can see as much from Shaun’s interview in this week’s League Express which you can also read online here.

He is incredibly single minded in his approach, with an admirable trait of not demanding any special treatment nor of making any excuses if things don’t fall his way.

In an ideal world, England’s first fixture at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on 23 October wouldn’t come only two weeks after the Super League Grand Final on 9 October.

It’s almost as though the Super League clubs are not really bothered whether England win the World Cup or not.

If they were, and I’m sure they would all claim to be totally behind England, surely they could have moved the Grand Final a little earlier, perhaps by a week or two weeks.

As it is, Shaun will have a game against the Exiles and then, possibly, a game against another country, perhaps Fiji, ten days before the World Cup begins.

But inevitably the England team for such a game wouldn’t include any players from the Grand Final.

It’s hardly satisfactory, although the only consolation will be that England’s greatest rivals won’t have significantly more time than England to prepare for the tournament, given that the NRL Grand Final is scheduled for 23rd October and the Kangaroos and Kiwis will have to spend at least a couple of days getting to the northern hemisphere in readiness for the tournament.

Given the problems he faces, I’m actually glad that it’s Shaun who’s in charge.

I can’t begin to imagine how complicated our preparation would have been if Wayne Bennett had still been the England coach.

How about a wild card round

The Challenge Cup first round looks as though it is going to return on the weekend of 24/25 March.

But the question facing the RFL is whether there will be a need for a preliminary round.

As you will have read, if more than three League 1 clubs want to enter the competition, there will need to be some matches taking place a week earlier to reduce those numbers to three.

I was discussing this with someone at the RFL over the weekend, and I commented on what an anti-climax it would be if the new season were to begin with a preliminary round of the Challenge Cup.

The expression ‘preliminary round’ seems to downplay the significance of the games that feature in it.

So my suggestion is to give that round of fixtures, supposing it takes place, an alternative name.

My suggestion is to call it a ‘wild card’ round.

Of course that phrase comes primarily from the NFL, so many people will be familiar with it and in my view it has a far more exciting ring to it than the anodyne ‘preliminary round’.

So, over to you, RFL.

The World Cup bounty

In this week’s League Express and also on TotalRL.com, you’ll find a list of clubs and community organisations that will receive financial support from the latest round of grants being awarded by the Rugby League World Cup organisers.

That money represents part of the £25 million that was awarded to the RFL by the government when it agreed in 2016 to support the RFL’s bid to stage the World Cup in this country.

If you look down the list of recipients, you’ll see that they represent all areas of England, with some of them far away from the so-called heartlands of the game.

That financial support was agreed by the former RFL chief executive Nigel Wood and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

Inevitably Nigel used to be the butt of much criticism when he was in the driving seat at the RFL, but I think it’s fair to say that the World Cup is his legacy, and it’s certainly one to be proud of.

The awards that were announced last week total almost £230,000 and they take the grand total of RLWC2021 small grants to more than £780,000 and the total number of award recipients to 129.

Most of the awards are for less than £10,000, but they are a lifeline to smaller clubs who struggle to raise funds, particularly during the current pandemic.

It’s great to see.

Meanwhile I was pleased to see a community club in the Salford district – Salford City Roosters, who were formerly known as Eccles ARLFC – will be getting a new clubhouse with substantial help from Salford City Council.

The club successfully bid for support from the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Capital Grants Legacy Programme in the summer of 2019 and the Council also agreed to contribute £300,000 towards the project.

Good luck to the Roosters. We urgently need to strengthen the junior game in the Salford district and it’s good to see that happening.

The Readers Poll winners

Congratulations to the following two readers, who have both won a pair of tickets for the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in July, after contributing to our annual Readers’ Poll over the Christmas period.

One of them was drawn from those readers who submitted their entries digitally, and one from those readers who filled in the paper version of the poll.

Let’s hope there will be a crowd this year at the Cup Final.

The winners were: Robin Clements of Clacton-on-Sea in Essex (printed entry) and Christine Hand of Liverpool (digital). Well done to both of them.

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