The Garry Schofield Column

Garry Schofield gives his reaction to England’s win in France on Saturday

Shaun Wane says England will get better after their win in France… and I certainly hope so.

The clash in Perpignan provided the coach with his first win at the helm, but it was a patchy performance.

And to be honest, I don’t think it will have got the juices flowing for many fans, and fair play to those who went to the time, trouble and expense of crossing the Channel.

It was well flagged up that had things worked out differently, we’d have been watching England take on Samoa in the World Cup opener in Newcastle.

There’s now a year until that happens, and while it seems a way off, it will soon come around.

Waney won’t have that many opportunities to work with his squad, and probably just one mid-season match before the preparations begin in earnest, with perhaps a meeting with Fiji coming during the final countdown.

Playing Fiji – and hopefully that game will finally take place at Rochdale, where there is such a strong link with the South Pacific country – would be crucial in getting England ready to take on Samoa, a match which which certainly won’t be a shoo-in.

We’ve all watched Fiji, Samoa and Tonga get stronger, and with so many of the players they can call on operating in the NRL (also the case for the Cook Islands as they return to the tournament after missing 2017) the three will pose a genuine threat to the traditionally strong sides.

I’ve said before that the standard of matches in this season’s NRL have shown how strong Australia, especially, and New Zealand will be, and on Saturday’s evidence, there’s plenty of work ahead to get England up the levels needed to be competitive against the best in the world.

England were solid enough in the opening stages against France, but we have to consider how poor the hosts were in that period of the game.

After the break, we started to see a bit more of that French spirit, and that showed up a few deficiencies on the part of England, who were caused quite a few problems.

I wasn’t impressed with the starting second row of Liam Farrell and John Bateman – I think Ben Currie, who was on the bench, and Mike McMeeken have been in better form for their clubs this year – while the back division didn’t exactly excite.

Some people, including the coach, will point to the fact that England went into the game with only a few training sessions behind them and with their travel arrangements tight, as well as having some key players missing.

Obviously we should see Sam Tomkins back along with the likes of Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, George Williams and Harry Newman, for example.

There is also the NRL contingent to factor in, but will that give us the quality needed to test the big boys?

Of course, with the whole of next season to consider, we could see some other players come to the fore.

I firmly believe international sides should be selected on current form and that means disregarding age.

But the days of picking emerging youngsters like myself, Lee Crooks, Joe Lydon and Gary Connolly seem a distant memory.

The talk surrounding the England Knights, when they recently played Jamaica, was of looking towards and building for the 2025 World Cup.

That’s all very well, but there’s a tournament in 2022, and if a player proves his credentials, don’t look at his birth certificate – get him into the squad.

McDermott’s challenge

I see Brian McDermott is set to become coach at Featherstone, and that’s a very interesting development down Post Office Road.

It was a surprise to see James Webster depart, and Brian is going to have to go some to match his winning record over the last two years.

Of course critics will claim that James lost the game that really mattered, as Toulouse won promotion to Super League.

But given Toulouse’s squad strength and their full-time status, it was always a big ask for Rovers to win over in France.

No one can argue with Brian’s record at Leeds, and of course he also took Toronto Wolfpack from the Championship into Super League in 2019 – a feat he will now be under huge pressure to repeat.

Toronto’s victory came at the expense of Featherstone, and some Rovers fans will no doubt remember some of the things Brian said in the wake of that Million Pound Game in Canada.

He’ll have to win them over, and also completely turn around his record of the last two years.

Let’s not forget Toronto lost all six Super League games they played in 2020, gaining just one win, over Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup, before the season was put on hold, a move from which they never returned.

And this year, he was parachuted into Oldham as ‘coaching consultant’ following the departure of Matt Diskin, and tasked with leading them away from the relegation zone.

But in the ten matches he was there, the Roughyeds gained just one point, from a draw with Swinton, the other team to drop into League 1.

A lot will be down to the squad Rovers can assemble, and given the demise of the old Colts and ‘A’ team system, we just don’t have the depth of players that clubs used to be able to call on, which makes life all the harder for Championship and League 1 clubs.

Featherstone have long been one of the big hitters of the second tier, but they’ve always fallen just short, and they’ll have some strong competition next season in the shape of Leigh, Halifax and Bradford, who have all been busy.

Batley will also cause a few problems, while I’m expecting better seasons from both Newcastle, Widnes and York.

Will Konrad suit Saints?

Kristian Woolf is hot on the heels of Huddersfield’s Ian Watson when it comes to the old pals act.

The St Helens coach has, as expected, signed Konrad Hurrell from Leeds, after also acquiring another of his Tonga team, Will Hopoate, from Canterbury Bulldogs.

The Hurrell deal is a bit of a head-scratcher for me, because I’m not convinced he’ll add anything significant to what Saints already have.

Woolf will need to coax more tries and more consistency from him, and also give him a crash course in defence.

Maybe he’s seen as an impact player at centre or second row. We’ll wait and see.

Order, order…

I had an enjoyable evening in the company of John Bercow (pictured), the former House of Commons speaker, at an event in Batley and Spen which was also attended by the constituency MP Kim Leadbeater.

Politics has always interested me, I enjoy watching discussion programmes on TV, and I have to say that John was great company, very respectful and interested in what people had to say.

He had some great stories to relate, and it got me thinking that in terms of dream jobs, being Commons Speaker would be right up there for me.

I think I’d really relish the tough challenge of keeping all those MPs in line.

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