Game one of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup has been run and won and already England have been left wondering how it has all gone wrong.
Yes they won their match against PNG by a scoreline of 32-22, but if we are all honest with ourselves, PNG should have won that game.
The Kumuls come out playing tough footy, asking a lot of questions of the English defense and simply were putting in more effort. Keep in mind PNG had a total of five players who play for NRL or Super League clubs, with Channel Nine mentioning one player in their side earns $12 dollars a week from his day to day job and plays Rugby League for nothing but enjoyment!
The Kumuls scrambling defense was outstanding, some of the best I have ever seen, and despite being the smaller side they physically dominated England for the full 80 minutes.
On the other side England looked, slow, tired and offered nothing in attack.
The worst thing for England has to be the way that simple set players torn them to shreds.
Little inside passes, a few cut out runs, and it was like the opening of Sydney Heads! If they offer the same thing up against Australia and New Zealand they will be lucky to keep within 80 points of both sides.
Paul Wellen’s was embarrassingly out of his depth, Kevin Sinfield was forced to take over the general kicking duties as Rob Burrow was also out of his depth, Adrian Morely was the only English forward that looked close to being up to Test level….and the tactics…..
Who’s bright idea was it to keep kicking to the wing of Ade Gardner?
What ever the case, Sinfields kicking game was so hit and miss that Ade didn’t have much he could do anyway.
PNG were unlucky and they looked like they were going to kick away as they scored under the posts in the second half but their last pass was rightly called forward. From then on, the game just all went England’s way, with possession, penalties and even a forward pass being allowed for England that gave them the game winning lead.
You could also see the effect that the professional level of training English players have coming into play in the season half. It wasn’t anywhere near as profound as it should have been, but you could see the Poms were only just starting to hit the wall as the PNG side just looked to hold on.
So now England have one week to prepare to face Australia down in Melbourne. I have to say, this could get very ugly. England need some MAJOR changes right now if they want any hope of being in the contest for even 20 minutes.
Wellens has to go, selecting him was ridiculous. He is out of his depth at Super League level and even the average kicking game of PNG was too much for him to handle as far as his positioning went.
I’d drop Leon Pryce to fullback, play Kevin Sinfield at standoff and put Danny McGuire in at halfback.
Pryce will be able to add some spark to running the ball back and will be able to slot into the backline in attack.
Sinfield is already having to pick up the halves duties, so you might as well play him there while McGuire is probably the most skilled player in the English squad.
Burrow is just not in the contest at this level. You can run sideways and not have a kicking or passing game in Super League, but at Test level you are a massive liability, and thats before we look at his terrible defense.
The pity of it all is that England can’t do anything about their coach. This is the World Cup, we’re here now, and all of the English preparation has been poor. Put simply, Tony Smith has already stuffed it up, and now he has a squad light of talent that looks like lambs to the slaughter over the next few weeks.
With that all said….I want to leave you with something deep and meaningful to think about.
I told you so!
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
Sep 22, 2021 0