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  1. Smith was one of those one dimensional halves that is strong in one particular aspect but lacking in many others. In the right team at the right time they can look like quality players, but put them out of their comfort zone and their flaws become apparent. Smith really made a name for himself at Salford and built a reputation as one of the best halves in Super League before he joined Wigan, where he gained even more plaudits. For me his success at both clubs was down to playing alongside two very underrated overseas halves who were much better players. One was Daniel Holdsworth and the other was Blake Green. Holdsworth may not have been a world beater but he was a good all round half who was effective and dangerous enough to draw most of the attention from the opposition and do everything required to allow Smith to do what he could do well, which is kick effectively when given time and space. It was the same situation with Blake Green at Wigan. Smith wasn't the same player when Green left. The first season with Smith and Williams together was okay. Williams was a revelation, often because he added something off the cuff in a side that was rigidly structured, a structure that Smith knew and played to effectively. As soon as teams figured Williams out a little, and Wigan's structure became predictable, you'd have expected the senior half to take charge, think on his feet and bear the burden of being the main creator. Smith's last two years at Wigan were very poor - and he was basically exposed as being poor under pressure and unable to create anything himself. It said a lot when Wigan were willing to allow their most senior halfback to leave for their biggest rivals for nothing while still under contract.
  2. I think there are a few question marks over what Wigan's starting line up will be for the opening game. A lot will depend on Lam's ideas for the shape of the team and how players perform in pre-season. Gildart won't be fit so we might start with Bibby and Hankinson in the centres. Other options would be Burgess or Manfredi, as they've played centre before, Isa - which might be considered if Greenwood can find a bit of form, or Hardaker - which would be bold since he's our player of the season at fullback, but I think most Wigan fans want to see what Bevan French can do at fullback. On the subject of French, Lam has already said he isn't sure where he's going to play him. He's mostly featured on the wing so he could be competition for Manfredi, Burgess and Marshall. There was talk of him being brought in to play in the halves so he could be paired up with Hastings, but that would mean moving a key player (Leuluai) from a key role. In the forwards the only real guaranteed starters are Powell and Farrell. Greenwood, Isa or Smithies could take the other back row place (or maybe another youngster to stake a claim, such as Jack Wells, Kai Pearce-Paul or Joe Shorrocks. Our middles are another mystery. George Burgess is a definite pick but he could be used off the bench or to start. Our experienced props (Clubb and Flower) aren't exactly guaranteed a place due to poor form and injury this year. Bullock is back to fitness and if he picks up his early season form again he'll be a dangerous player. Mitch Clark I'm not sure of but the club obviously rate him and he's another player in the mix, along with Navarrete (poor last year but he's still got potential), Partington and Byrne. We've also got competition for the loose forward role with O'Loughlin going for one more year and Smithies breaking through. With so much competition for places and so many roles up for grabs I'm not sure how Lam will have any idea what our strongest team will be until they've got out on the field. However, based on what our players are capable of, our strongest team to start in my opinion would be: French; Manfredi, Hardaker, Bibby, Burgess; Hastings, Leuluai; Burgess, Powell, Flower; Greenwood, Farrell, O'Loughlin; (Bench - Smithies, Clark, Clubb, Bullock) Although if I was to pick it again in a week it would probably be completely different. While I'd leave Willie Isa out of a theoretical strongest line up based on how good players could be at their best, he'll almost certainly be in the side because he's so consistent.
  3. Paul Anderson is the England Knights coach and England assistant coach, so probably the Southgate equivalent.
  4. Peacock wasn't a tactical leader either but he was a good captain. No matter who is captain they will need other good leaders around them and good tacticians. Bateman is intelligent on the field and is in the James Graham mould of putting all his effort in even if it's a lost cause. At Wigan Bateman was the obvious leader in O'Loughlin's absence and the obvious choice to replace him. I'd say he's also an obvious choice to replace O'Loughlin and Graham.
  5. Was there actually a job for coaches to apply for, or was the role simply given to Bennett? In some ways I don't think you can blame Bennett for focusing purely on the job he's there to do, which is to coach England, if the role was simply handed to him. It provided him with an opportunity to coach most of his England players this year otherwise he wouldn't have had that opportunity. It was completely ridiculous to bring back GB, claim it is some separate entity to England and then hand the coaching job to someone whose only interest is England. Bennett's been in the game long enough for everyone to know what he's like. I wouldn't even have minded if they had included players from the Celtic nations who perhaps might not have made a full strength side - because if you're going to bring back Great Britain then it only makes sense if you're going to go all in with this British identity. If it's coached by the England coach and full of England players it's not worth it.
  6. He still passed the ball to McGilvary with enough time for him to get the ball down over the line comfortably - which McGilvary should have done easily but didn't because he dropped it. Big things matter in tight games too.
  7. That's clutching at straws. It wasn't the best timed pass but Hardaker still waited until he had drawn the man before passing. He should have waited until he committed a little more but that would also risk an inaccurate pass if the timing was off. McGilvary was one or two yards in from the touchline so could have positioned himself wider (it's only the impact of the tackle that takes him into the corner flag but there's plenty of space to work with there) and literally all he had to do was keep hold of the ball. The only mistakes made were possibly not hugging the touchline but definitely trying to ground the ball with 2 hands rather than keeping it in his right. Why an experienced winger like him is doing that I don't know as a 2 hand carry close to the line means all a defender has to do is knock the arm, which is what happened.
  8. Bennett shouldn't have been made GB coach to begin with. If GB is meant to be a standalone representative side and not feel like England under a different name then they should have had a different coach. Unless we turn this tour around drastically then he shouldn't remain at the GB coach. As England coach he's done some good things, got the side close to the Aussies in some games but to be honest we're not massively better off than before. It's not like he's been a disaster though. My concern from these last few matches though is that things are starting to stagnate. He seems to be overly reliant on the same players even though they aren't at the same level they once were and seems to favour certain players based on their previous performances for England, yet doesn't afford the same luxuries to others. It almost seems lazy. I'm not sure how much Super League he actually watches, so seems to favour players he already knows about. Others get picked but seem to be expected to play in a different way. Maybe it's just time for a refresh. I don't think the coach makes as much of a difference as the players but if the coach isn't necessarily picking the right players or planning ahead then it might be best to look elsewhere.
  9. While I agree that we've lost a lot from O'Loughlin not being good enough to make the squad this year but I'm not sure just sticking a half at lock is the answer. We used to try that with Sinfield as a ball playing 13 but it just meant we lacked a forward with a good carry. To be an effective ball playing 13 you need the size to make strong carries as that's what attracts defenders and creates the space. Williams likes to run laterally looking for space which is not what you want a ball playing 13 to do.
  10. I was having trouble finding the payment screen. Every time I went on my account section and clicked the England v Jamaica tab it kept going straight to a video player. It was doing that for about 20 minutes but having tried it again 5 minutes ago it brought up a payment screen instead and I've managed to buy it. Anyone who was having trouble should probably try again now.
  11. My favourite try was probably Liam Tindall's in the 75th minute - purely because of the step under pressure and lovely weighted cross-field kick from prop Harry Rushton! Halves would be proud of that. The Warrington lads are outstanding talents. Roby and Wrench ripped it up and it's a shame Thewlis got injured because he's quality too.
  12. True but I think Widdop was surplus. He can't go through gaps and if you're using several playmakers at some point they will need to support and go through gaps themselves and that's where Widdop doesn't offer enough in this format. The wingers were the biggest issue of course, but I think maybe another outside back or two in the team would have offered a bigger threat. Sacrifice one playmaker for a centre and I think the balance is better.
  13. I agree. It's not like this was a full on test match, and the Saints players were getting weeks off during the playoffs. When the side was announced I was surprised Gildart wasn't in there. Very good taking the ball into contact, rapid and with good hands. That's the type of player you need for 9's. Selecting Hall and McGilvary as our wingers is just odd. They are slower than a lot of forwards. We also had too many playmakers. Tomkins was a smart selection, he's suited to this style, but why Widdop? He's not a dynamic attacking player. Then you've got Graham and Sutton in the pack, who haven't got the pace or explosive running as their rivals from down under. The Aussie side looks to have a fair few younger forwards and definitely younger outside backs. Bennett just treated it as a GB warm up. I can understand there are concerns about who plays with GB tests coming up but I wouldn't have minded if GB players weren't eligible for selection - we could still have fielded a half decent side for 9's.
  14. Gareth Ellis was still capable of playing at a good level late into his career. The same goes for Greg Bird. While O'Loughlin really seemed to be struggling having returned from the pectoral injury I think people forget that at the start of the year he was in some good form and playing the full 80 when most expected him to be spelled. He's had numerous games where he's made more carries than an average forward and made plenty of tackles. If you look at his work rate in the following games, it's superior to the vast majority of our middles: Saints (Jan) - 37 tackles, 13 carries Leeds (Feb) - 29 tackles, 23 carries Hull (Feb) - 37 tackles, 18 carries Wire (Mar) - 37 tackles, 13 carries HKR (Jun) - 48 tackles, 15 carries Leeds (Jun) - 37 tackles, 14 carries Huddersfield (Jun) - 25 tackles, 19 carries Salford (Sep) - 38 tackles, 10 carries Bearing in mind that O'Loughlin has rarely had a full off-season due to playing international games or being injured, I don't see why he can't still play at a high level next year. It's not like his stamina has gone, as the examples above show. Perhaps he was overworked early on and not managed correctly, but O'Loughlin anywhere near his best for 40 minutes is a damn useful player to have.
  15. On merit he hasn't been good enough to get into the GB squad. He's not even Wigan's best loose forward this year. To me it just shows how well respected he is that rather than being simply omitted from the squad they've provided a press release. From a Wigan perspective it's the news I was hoping for. If he's going to play for Wigan again next year he needs a full off season to be anywhere near his best again.
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