Attitude is a big factor when it comes to performing at the highest level in Rugby League. The way a coach, player and overall team prepares for a contest can have a big influence on the result they end up getting.
Going into a game with the wrong attitude can mean a team is on the back foot before a ball has even been kicked. It is not black and white though. From within a team it is not easy to see when the teams attitude is starting to turn from something positive, into something negative.
Rugby League can be a brutal, unforgiving sport. If you are not ready for the contest Rugby League will embarrass you. It doesn’t matter how good your lineup is or how much you are supposed to beat the opposition by, you will be shown up by this sport.
England’s defeated on home soil to Italy is one of those moments when a team was punished for its poor attitude and poor preparation. There is no doubt that England went into the contest expecting to win easily. The line between confidence and over confidence is so small that its hard to know when you’ve crossed it sometimes. I tend to think England’s loss points to something deeper though…
English Rugby League has an unshakable belief that it is special. That has been a theme running through the English game for a long time now.
If you look at the lead up to the World Cup, the RFL ignored other “home nations” such as Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They put all of their resources into the England team.
The English coach, Steve McNamara spent a lot of time traveling around the world speaking to English players in the UK and in Australia over the course of the club season. He was said to be “monitoring” players progress and having meetings with them all the time. He put pressure on some players to performance with some of the things he said in the media. That is all fine, he did his best.
When it was announced that England would spend two weeks in South Africa ahead of the World Cup in their now famous “altitude training” camp, that is where red flags started to appear for me.
No other team was preparing for the World Cup that way. Having looked into altitude training, I could see no benefit at all from spending such a short time at altitude before heading back home to England and having two weeks before the World Cup got under way anyway!
I felt as though England made a ridiculous mistake preparing for English conditions in South Africa. That England arrived back home a day after Australia had arrived in England said it all to me.
In my opinion the altitude training camp was a gimmick. It was England trying to separate itself from everyone else. It was England doing something special, and this is what all of this comes back to.
For a long time now England have tried to win by taking shortcuts. The belief that England is special and deserve to win just because they are England has seen them overlook hard work and go straight for the quick fix.
Forget altitude training, England should have spend all of their time in England, training in English conditions, working themselves until they throw up. England could have come into the World Cup KNOWING that no other team had trained as hard in the right conditions and were ahead of the World Cup kicking off. Instead they went to South Africa in the hope that altitude training would somehow sprinkle magic pixie dust on them.
England’s obsession with Australia drives a lot of this. English players have been told for so long that they are special, that they are the equal of Australia’s best, that all they need is confidence and for things to go their ways and the results will follow, and it’s all a lie.
The results speak for themselves. Australia dominates England. England looks at this domination and puts it down to small things while overlooking all of the hard work and dedication that Australia’s players put in to become as good as they are.
You can see this difference in attitude when you look at the pre season training that happens in the NRL compared to Super League.
In the NRL pre season training is notoriously horrible. Players hate it! While fans are busy watching Cricket, NRL players are being put through hell in pre season training that leaves them completely spent. Super League clubs meanwhile look to get away from England when possible and head to somewhere sunny. A get away from home. Training surrounded by a holiday.
For all of England’s gimmicks their real downfall is their failure to put in the hard yards that really matter. How can England possibly be ready to take on the likes of Australia when they don’t know what it is like to push themselves?
Australia know that if they keep the pressure on England in a match, England will capitulate. It has happened time and time again. Australia’s players are blooded in the NRL where pressure is a weekly obstacle. They then go on to play State Of Origin football. By the time they become Australian test players, they have so much experience playing under intense pressure, playing in games that really matter and playing until they have nothing left to give….while still having to give more….that a test match against England is not anything they have never seen before.
Hard work and the ability to handle pressure. England is terrible at both.
All of the altitude training in the world will not overcome the real problems England have. Until England realises its true standing in the game, and that they will not improve without hard work and pure effort, they will keep coming up with embarrassing results the likes of which we saw against Italy.
England isn’t special. Neither is Australia or New Zealand. It all comes back to hard work. When England is willing to put in the hard work, then the results will follow.
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
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