Castleford Tigers coach delivers passionate plea for international game after low-key England-France Test

Drew Darbyshire
Craig Lingard Castleford Tigers Alamy

Castleford Tigers head coach Craig Lingard

Castleford Tigers coach Craig Lingard has joined a number of his Super League counterparts in making a passionate plea regarding the international game in the northern hemisphere.

England‘s 40-8 mid-season win over France in Toulouse last Saturday was overshadowed by the low-key affair, with the Test match recording a crowd of just 4,500 whilst there was no television coverage, with the game being streamed on Super League+.

A number of Super League coaches have been asked about their thoughts surrounding the international game in the northern hemisphere this week, including Paul Wellens (St Helens), Matt Peet (Wigan) and Willie Peters (Hull KR), whilst former England stalwarts James Graham and Kevin Brown have publicly expressed their disappointment following the low-key spectacle in Toulouse – with the hope that the frustration which has been generated will lead to a discernible change in the fortunes of the international game.

Wellens, Peet and Peters were all in unison that more needs to be done around the international calendar to help grow the game with Lingard echoing the comments from his Super League colleagues in his press conference on Thursday, with the Tigers having lost in-form centre Sam Wood for the rest of the season having suffered a shoulder injury on his England debut.

“I’m wanting players to play for their country, it helps us and benefits us in the long-term that we can show players if you come and play for Castleford, you are not putting yourself out of international recognition, so I’d certainly not hold any players back from playing for their country,” a passionate Lingard said.

“I want to do as much as we possibly can to make sure that the international game grows, but it’s got to be better than it was.

“I thought it was – to echo Willie’s comments and Matty Peet’s comments – the pinnacle of anyone’s career is representing their country. We’ve got to make sure that the spectacle represents that as well.

“I don’t think that did any good for the game at all, so what can we do as a sport to grow the international game? That’s certainly something we need to do.

“I’ll be fully supportive of it as a club coach if any of our players get called up to release them to that, but it is frustrating that when you lose a player that has been so influential for us, to lose a player in the magnitude of the game that it was, and I think it was a bit of an embarrassment for the game.”

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Lingard insisted that he had no qualms with the England’s Test match with France going ahead mid-season, and reiterated that international rugby league is vital to the growth of the sport on a wider scale, but believes more needs to be done in creating a ‘meaningful’ international calendar moving forwards.

“It’s the chicken and the egg really, isn’t it?” Lingard added. “We all want international games to be played, but when do you play them? You don’t want to play them at the start of the season because players aren’t battle-hardened and you don’t want to play them at the end of the season because players need that rest so I think we need to make sure that we do have a competitive international window, but it needs to meaningful and I didn’t think that game was meaningful at all.

“I think when you are looking around on how to watch an international game, and then when you watch the game and there is hardly anyone there, I don’t think it was a great spectacle for the game.

“For us to grow the game, we’ve got to grow the international game. As a coach, I’m fully supportive of that but I think we’ve got to have some foresight on how to do that and I don’t think we can do it halfheartedly.

“I think there’s got to be some sort of plan there and what that plan is needs to be developed and devised, and bought into 100 per cent, and I don’t think this fixture was fully thought through. I’m probably speaking a bit out of turn here, I’m probably speaking as a rugby league fan rather than a rugby league coach.”

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