Talking Rugby League with League Express editor Martyn Sadler
In last week’s column I gave ten reasons why we could be optimistic about the prospect of the World Cup being played in 2022, rather than 2021.
During the last seven days I’ve thought a little more about how the year’s delay might affect the tournament, particularly from England’s point of view.
And that got me thinking about some of the players who are likely to be contenders for England selection.
At the top end of the age range, there are probably some players whose chances of appearing in the final World Cup of their career may have ended with the decision to postpone the tournament.
James Roby, the captain of St Helens, for example, has been one of Rugby League’s greatest players, and he is in the current England squad.
But in November 2022 he will celebrate his 37th birthday. Perhaps it’s a year too far.
And the same thing could be said about a group of other players.
Luke Gale, who has had an eventful few weeks at Leeds recently, will be 34 years of age in autumn next year, while another England stalwart, Jermaine McGillvary, will also be 34. Both of those players are still capable of playing well, but can they extend those performances into another year?
Mike Cooper and Stefan Ratchford, both of Warrington, are others who will be 34, although speed isn’t so much of the essence for a prop forward.
On the other hand, there are plenty of young players who probably wouldn’t have been in the running this year, but who might well be in 2022.
The most obvious candidate is St Helens’ Jack Welsby.
Then there’s a whole host of young forwards like Mikolaj Oledzki, and players like Matty Lees of St Helens and a bunch of Wigan youngsters whose chances will be enhanced by a year’s grace.
And what about some of our teenage stars, such as Will Pryce of Huddersfield and Ben McNamara of Hull FC, who have been getting great experience this year and whose form suggests that they could be genuine contenders next year.
As I suggested last week, there is actually quite a lot to look forward to in next year’s World Cup.
Are you watching, BBC?
A lot of people have pointed out how much the BBC’s coverage of Rugby League has improved in recent years.
I don’t think there’s much doubt about that, and if we assume that they will cover the World Cup next year as comprehensively as they would have covered it this year, then I’m sure we can all really look forward to a wonderfully staged and presented tournament.
There is one thing to bear in mind for next year.
The viewing public that watches the tournament on the BBC, a free-to-air broadcaster, is likely to be much greater than it would be if the World Cup were on a different platform.
That means that there are likely to be a lot of people watching the tournament who know not very much about our sport.
That thought struck me when watching Sky’s coverage of Super League last week, when I thought that Jon Wells did a superb job of explaining some of the tactical points of the game, making it more understandable even for someone like me, who has been watching Rugby League for an awful long time.
So if we are serious about spreading the gospel of Rugby League, I seriously believe that we should encourage the BBC to take Jon on board for next year’s tournament.
I’m certain that his analysis of games would enhance the enjoyment of the vast majority of viewers, who might then want to continue watching Rugby League once the tournament is over.
Over to you, BBC!
Well done, Willie
I’ve always admired Willie Poching, going back to his playing days, when he was always a whole hearted player who gave his best for any club he represented.
He was particularly popular with Wakefield supporters, for whom he played between 1999 and 2001, before he joined Leeds Rhinos for five seasons.
And Willie has certainly served his coaching apprenticeship, having had over ten years as an assistant coach at a variety of clubs, including Warrington and Hull KR where, in both cases, he was an assistant to Tony Smith.
So it would be surprising if Willie hadn’t learned a lot about coaching in that period.
And it was good to see him putting it into practice for Wakefield against Warrington on Sunday.
Wakefield needed to win the game to remove any lingering fears of relegation and they did so in style, although not before suffering the almost inevitable second-half jitters, as Warrington came roaring back into the game with three tries in five minutes.
Nonetheless, they held on to win, which is more than they’ve done in recent matches.
And on Saturday they face a trip to Castleford Tigers for a local derby.
That game won’t be on Sky, so I would advise anyone even vaguely interested in Rugby League within 50 miles of the Mend-a-Hose Jungle to get down there for what looks like an intriguing encounter.
On Friday night I tweeted my opinion that Hull Kingston Rovers are the most entertaining side to watch in Super League, after they completed the double over Wigan.
The Robins throw the ball about and offload it with abandon.
Sometimes they give their supporters heart attacks, but you can guarantee that it will be exciting.
And what a great innovation Craven Streat is, for fans to congregate before the game.
I’m not at all surprised that the club owner Neil Hudgell has had second thoughts about selling the club.
But I have just one other thought.
It hardly bears thinking about that if relegation had still existed in 2020, the Robins might not have been in Super League at all this year.
Can the Catalans keep it up?
Another club that is attractive to watch is the Catalans Dragons.
But I get the impression that they are going through a mid-season dip, even though they managed to beat Hull FC on Friday.
This Thursday they visit Warrington Wolves, who also don’t seem to be firing on all cylinders.
That promises to be a fair test for both clubs on Thursday night.
But will Sam Kasiano play?
He only lasted five minutes against Hull with a troublesome knee.
Sam has signed a contract extension at the Stade Gilbert Brutus for another year until the end of the 2022 season.
By then I would guess that he would qualify on residential grounds to play for France in the World Cup.
That would surely be an interesting development.
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