League Express Mailbag : Monday 7th November

I would like to thank the Princess of Wales for her attendance at Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final game at Wigan, and the interest she so obviously took in the teams. The youngsters who were presented with the teams and the England Women’s team were all photographed with her.
The Princess clearly charmed everyone she met, and I am delighted that she is the current Royal Patron of the Rugby Football League.
There are some people who don’t approve of a monarchy in the modern age, but I doubt whether any of them could come up with a special guest with the charisma and presence of the Princess.
Eric Johnson, Tadcaster

The World Cup has seen two closely contested matches between Tonga and PNG, and New Zealand and Fiji, which both had final scorelines of 24-18.
Both games were thrilling matches, just as a World Cup should deliver, but the problem is that so few matches have delivered matches anything like as close as that.
The more common margins have been in excess of 40 points.
The truth is that the smaller nations are not equipped yet to compete directly with the big boys.
Your editor Martyn Sadler has suggested that the four pools should have been seeded into two strong pools and two weaker ones, with three and one respectively going forward to the quarter-finals.
Like him, I’m sure that the crowds would have been much better for all the matches if the pools had been organised on that basis, which was the basis on which the 2013 and 2017 tournaments were organised.
Changes should only be made to formats when they can be fully justified. I’m afraid that the World Cup organisers made changes when there was no justification at all.
I could say the same thing about the selection of venues, which have been too large and probably too concentrated in the northwest. Unfortunately there are no second chances to put these things right.
David Williams, York

There has been some debate as to the value of having teams such as Jamaica or Greece playing in the World Cup, given some of the large scorelines against them.
Of course, it would make for the most exciting matches if every game was a close one with the outcome in the balance until the final whistle.
But we aren’t at a stage where we could have 16 international teams all competing at that same. I’m not sure that even eight could – and we can’t wish that into being.
So I think it’s far better to give those teams the chance to compete in the World Cup. After all, whilst the scorelines may be one sided, it gives those players the opportunity to play against some of the best in the world so that they can learn to be better players.
And in my opinion, some of those one-sided scorelines have been better games to watch than some in the Super League. In general there has been no giving up by those teams on the wrong side of the scoreboard; instead they have given it their all.
I saw Ireland v Jamaica at Headingley and, like many other neutrals in the crowd, I couldn’t help but cheer on the Jamaican team as they scrambled in defence and pulled off some impressive tackles to save a try.
The game against New Zealand saw probably the shortest kick-off attempts in a game, and the Jamaican team won a lot of them. I was certainly entertained by their efforts.
Significantly, many of these sides, including both the Jamaican and Greek teams, included players from those countries’ respective domestic competitions. Giving those players in particular the opportunity to play against the best teams in the world is fantastic.
I prefer to give these teams an opportunity in a World Cup rather than deciding in advance that we can only have England, Australia and New Zealand and a handful of others playing each other.
Iain Dalton, Leeds

I am an avid Rugby League fan from the West Midlands.
I watch pretty much every match that is on TV as well as supporting my local team, Midlands Hurricanes.
I was really looking forward to the World Cup but have been bitterly disappointed by the constant parade of massively mismatched games.
The average score in the first three rounds of the men’s tournament was 48-9. Who wants to watch that?
I have not watched a single game past half-time due to the total lack of competitiveness.
So, if a massive fan like me is turned off, how can we expect new fans to the sport to be interested?
On the three weekends of the group games, the following sports were being televised live: Premiership Football, Premiership Rugby Union, Formula 1, MotoGP, NFL, NBA, NHL, Darts and Snooker, all of which provide competitive action.
There is a reason that the Championship and Super League teams enter the Challenge Cup at such a late stage and not in the first round.
Surely, it’s not beyond the wit of even the Rugby League World Cup administrators to organise the event in such a way as to have a mini-tournament in the early stages between the lower ranked teams, with the top two progressing to play the better teams in a second phase
Unfortunately, I feel that they have missed an opportunity to attract new fans with this mismatched farce.
Nigel Plimmer, Wolverhampton

Martyn Sadler mentioned last week (Talking Rugby League, 31 October) that the World Cup, despite the positives surrounding the tournament, has seen too many blow-out scores.
To attract new audiences the public needs to see a genuine contest, which Rugby League, between evenly matched teams, usually provides. But this World Cup has too often shown that power can trump skill.
For example, France have some excellent, skilful players but they were just blown off the park against Samoa.
Samoa deserved their victory, and have some incredibly skilful players themselves, but to a certain extent those skills weren’t required. Brute strength was enough.
This is, to a certain extent, the product of the 10-metre gap at the play-the-ball.
Ten metres works fine with evenly matched teams, but gives too many one-sided scores otherwise. The same can be seen in the Challenge Cup when teams from different divisions meet.
I’d propose a five-metre gap for matches between teams more than one level apart (whether this be divisions or international tiers/seedings).
This might upset the purists but it means defences would have to be unlocked with skill rather than blasted open. The best teams would still win and strength would still play a major role, but it would provide more of a contest.
Just a personal opinion, of course.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex

Having watched the ‘Women of Steel’ documentary, I agree with many of the comments expressed by Richard de la Riviere in last week’s League Express.
What I found extremely irritating was coach Craig Richards constantly referring to his team as “Guys”, which seems to have crept into everyday usage in recent times.
Also, I was a little annoyed at the commentators in the Samoa v France game almost wetting themselves with glee when a Samoan heavyweight tackled a bloke at least four stones lighter than him towards the end of the game as if it was something to be applauded.
I do hope Mr Paulo is on the receiving end of a similar tackle now that we are entering the business end of the competition.
David Hitchen, Wigan

I’m really enjoying the World Cup, even with the big scores and I’ve been to several games.
At the Wales v Cook Islands game at the Leigh Sports Village my mate was told he couldn’t take his sandwiches into the ground.
He hadn’t had time to eat before he came, so he took them out of a plastic carrier bag and stuffed them into his pockets. Fine and funny!
At Sunday’s game at the same stadium with a 12.00pm kick off, it was embarrassing to see a family of five told they couldn’t bring in the food they had with them.
“Take the bags back to the car”, they were told.  “It’s too far away,” they responded, and I’m not wasting it” said mum, “we’ll eat it here.” And so they did, outside the turnstiles.
My heart sank. What a welcome for them!
Terry Wynn, Standish

Thanks very much to Michael O’Hare for explaining the funding situation with regard to the Northern Powerhouse Fund (Mailbag 31 October). I wasn’t aware of this.
Having just returned from Bramall Lane and the Riverside Stadium at the weekend, I have to query the ticketing policy, particularly the pricing.
Any England game should be a near sell-out when the tournament is based here, but the crowd at the Greece game was barely over half the capacity of the venue.
I feel this is largely due to the cost of the tickets. Surely the best way to fill a stadium is to charge sensible prices and maybe offer discounts, or even some free tickets for local schools.
I paid £55, only to find I was sat in the in-goal area in the front row; there were huge swathes of empty seats in the more expensive areas, which some people moved into once they realised that these seats weren’t going to be used.
Similarly at Middlesbrough, prices could have been set with regard to getting more people to go to the game. Cheaper tickets and special offers for local people would have made much more sense.
As for Bill Riley’s letter about being charged extra to buy tickets on the day; what are the organisers thinking of? How on earth are we going to attract new fans to the sport with policies like this?
Come on, those of you who organised all this – why was even a little bit of common sense not used?
I would really appreciate one of you responding to my comments and explaining how this situation came about.
Phil Davidge, Leeds