It wouldn’t be a World Cup if there wasn’t an English team looking to shock the world and win it all. They are improving, they are one of the teams to beat, they have prepared well and are ready to take on the world…all of that…
The problem for the English Rugby League team is that they are in the middle of a long, slow descent from being a powerhouse in the game in the early 1970’s to being a nation that is barely hanging on to its professional club competition in 2013.
The latest edition of the English Rugby League team is not in the hunt for a place in the final. The tournament favourites, Australia and New Zealand, are on a completely different level to this England team.
What England is fighting for is a place in the semi finals. England’s main opponents are not Australia and New Zealand. Their main opponents are Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. That is England’s level in 2013. That is the truth.
The English team boasts a number of players that play in Australia’s National Rugby League competition. Some feel that this will give them an edge over many of their rivals. Take a look across the competition though. Most teams boast NRL players. The likes of Samoa and Tonga have more NRL first grade players in them than England has.
To this day you will still find people that will claim that England has the best forward pack in the World Cup. These people are called idiots. While the English pack boasts a couple of decent forwards, most of them are no where near the standard of other forwards that will compete in the World Cup.
England will rely on a halves pairing that wouldn’t give anyone any confidence…
While Gareth Widdop is a proven winner in the NRL he is coming off the back of a dislocated hip. That isn’t just like any other injury. That is the type of injury you need a good year to fully recover from.
Alongside Widdop will be Salford Red Devils bound Rangi Chase, a player born and raised in New Zealand and who represented the New Zealand Maori. Chase dominates at Super League level with a club that doesn’t win anything at all. He dominates play unlike any other halfback I have seen. He will touch the ball on every single play in every single set.
That works well in Super League, where defence is a dirty word. Against the worlds best players though Chase doesn’t get room to run. He gets shut down. Basically, Rangi Chase isn’t giving anyone sleepless nights.
One of England’s most consistent players in the past, James Roby, is coming off possibly the worst Super League season of his career. To back him up England have selected Rob Burrow, who much like Chase has proven to be a hit at Super League level and completely shut down when he has faced quality opposition.
The English back line is a real worry. The loss of Jack Reed means that England will be forced to name two centres that will be like lambs to the slaughter. England have no idea who Konrad Hurrell is. Even now I know plenty of English supporters will have to google his name. England’s outside backs will be butchered by some of the teams they face.
Then we have Sam Tomkins at the back, who thankfully has kept his mouth shut so far heading into the World Cup opener…
This will be without doubt Tomkins biggest test of his career. He might not be all that good under the high ball in Super League, just wait and see how he goes after a month of spiral bombs and decent, unbroken defensive lines in the World Cup. He won’t make half the impact he is used to making and I dare say a number of people in New Zealand will question whether he is worth all the money they will be paying him next year at the New Zealand Warriors.
Of course this team is coach by possibly the worst coach at the entire World Cup in Steve McNamara, a man whose coaching record speaks for itself.
You can make a really good case that most teams competing at the World Cup are actually improving. Even if you take out some of the ridiculous squads some of them have named, nations like Italy and the United States are improving Rugby League playing nations.
England is unfortunately a Rugby League playing nation in decline. With falling participation numbers, a dying professional competition and having all of their better players stripped from them by overseas clubs, this will be the last English World Cup team that will mostly be made up of players who ply their trade in England. It is really sad to see.
When they fail to deliver on many of the outrageous promises being made by English journalists and officials, you have to wonder what the reaction will be. When English fans realise that England is being over taken by Pacific Island nations, will it suddenly strike home the amount of decay the English game has been allowed to fall into over the last couple of decades?
English Rugby League pinned its hopes to a successful World Cup a number of years ago. This tournament was meant to be a golden bullet for the game. When England fail to deliver I think we will find that bullet is a hollow point, and it is pointed directly at he temple of the sports future in England.
England won’t be competitive in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Just making it to the 2017 tournament will be an achievement in itself…