Ireland’s shock victory over France in Dublin last week, coupled with a virtuoso performance by Danny Brough for Scotland against Wales in Workington, should have been enough to get everyone talking about the European Championship.
But as the games were not televised nor widely reported by a media for which barely seven days ago Rugby League was the hottest topic in town (for all the wrong reasons), the impact of these results will be muted.
It is a real shame that, as we approach the first anniversary of the 2013 World Cup, more could not have been done to elevate the European Championship tournament into the public consciousness, so that those players, like Brough, who could perhaps have opted for a quieter off-season but instead chose to put their country first, could at least have had a bigger stage to play on.
This article originally appeared in this week’s edition of League Express newspaper. Click here to download the digital version to your computer, smartphone or tablet
It’s one thing to schedule an international calendar, but simply putting games on is not enough. If we learned anything from last year’s successful World Cup it is that there is a public appetite for international Rugby League, but only if we work hard to tell everyone about it and then give them the opportunity to see it for themselves on television.
Meanwhile, we anticipate England’s first competitive outing since that World Cup semi-final humdinger at Wembley against New Zealand when they face Samoa in Brisbane on Saturday in their opening game in the Four Nations.
Steve McNamara’s men will be anxious to avoid any slip-ups against the tournament outsiders, particularly with so many high profile withdrawals and injuries affecting the rival Australian and Kiwi camps potentially increasing England’s chances of overall success.
We hope the lack of any warm-up games won’t prove costly and that England’s stars, many already well known to Australian fans through their performances in the NRL, will hit the ground running and get their campaign off to a convincing and winning start.
The good news is we will all be able to watch the game unfold live on television on BBC2 at 6.30am on Saturday morning. Set your alarm clocks!