English rugby league must be concerned with last Sunday’s result in Newcastle, with the Kangaroos dominant and a Kiwi team that will improve.
The Four Nations tournament is just over a week away with Australia and New Zealand to do battle on neutral ground in the opening game in Warrington, followed by England versus Wales at Leigh. The following week will see rugby league return to Wembley with a double header and no doubt show if England has improved in 12 months when they take on Australia.
The English side have got a few familiar faces in their provisional squad. Wests Tigers duo Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington, along with Melbourne Storms Gareth Widdop and Brisbane Broncos boom centre Jack Reed, will add some flare to a youthful English team that has also named veterans Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock and Canterbury bound James Graham.
England will head down the Avignon for a warm up match against France this Friday before the Four Nations campaign begins against Wales. But their first real test will be against the Kangaroos at Wembley. The match against France may give the Poms some confidence leading into the tournament but that’s about all it will do.
Unfortunately for England, they do not get enough Test match rugby league. It is only two years away from England hosting the World Cup and as a rugby league fan I want to see them Wales and France at least competitive in 2013. But I doubt this will happen with the lack of Test matches played by these nations.
It maybe too late to organised next season due to scheduling but the English, Welsh and French rugby leagues should consider touring the Pacific region while the State of Origin series is on in Australia. England could play New Zealand while France and Wales tour Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Cook Islands. These Pacific Island nations are crying out for more top class internationals too.
This would mean that the Super League takes a mid-season break for two to three weeks. The idea would undoubtedly annoy most British fans, but if Northern Hemisphere nations want to be competitive, they must sacrifice their own competition in a bid to be stronger at international level.
While the State of Origin series is on in Australia, New Zealand could be hosting England in a three-match Test series or the Kiwis could fly up north or even meet halfway in Dubai or Hong Kong. It is win win for all involved, England get the much needed Test match rugby league while the game is promoted in new areas.
After last Sunday’s result in Newcastle, I worry that England and Wales will be further behind New Zealand. Lets hope I’m wrong for the good of international rugby league.