Disappointment from England, but excitement from elsewhere

You can’t but feel it’s been one big disappointment. England left for Australia with a mood of confidence, one which was arguably deserved, ahead of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Yet there was little praiseworthy about England in any of their four games, Tony Smith’s men claiming but one win, and that hardly in glorious circumstances.nnGiven the 3-0 Test series whitewash of New Zealand in 2007, plus a win against France earlier this year, and a 70-point thrashing of Wales by an England side without many of its best players, you might have thought that the team would have performed better than this. Ok, the 2007 Kiwis were hardly the best touring side to arrive in the UK, and France and Wales scarcely the toughest of opposition, but there were few indicators of a performance this poor.nnThe Papua New Guinea game was always going to be tough given that the Kumuls were angered by the ridiculous world Cup format, but the beating by Australia was just embarrassing, the first loss to the Kiwis equally so, and the latest defeat just frustrating.nnThe worst part of it is the gloating from Australians that “all our games are easy” and that the World Cup isn’t even worth contesting any more. They’re perfectly entitled to gloat given the shameful lack of opposition to their continued dominance, but it’s annoying that the only country that doesn’t really care whether it wins or not is the one that will win at a canter.nnAlthough, that’s not quite true is it? The Aussies care very much whether they win or not, at least judging by the uproar that followed their 24-0 loss to New Zealand in the 2004 Tri-Nations series. It sometimes seems as though some Australian fans just want a team to give them a game, hence the respect shown to Papua New Guinea after their efforts against the Kangaroos.nnBut even that game was a 40-point beating for the Kumuls, and England and New Zealand have fallen woefully short in their attempts to beat the Australians. In fact most of the excitement of this World Cup has come in Pools 2 and 3, where we’ve seen teams defy the odds to earn the respect of fans everywhere. This is so much so that there has been a great deal of debate over who will take the fourth place in any upcoming Four Nations tournamentnnScotland were one of those having beaten Fiji for their first ever World Cup win, while Ireland also surprised in finishing top of a group which contained Samoa and Tonga. Fiji themselves have caused an upset by reaching the semi finals, and with a great deal of flair and excitement. The Bati – who replaced their traditional pre-match war dance with a specially-written hymn, and hold a prayer meeting before and after each training session – are truly an inspiration.nnFiji are unlikely to beat Australia tomorrow, but thoughts turn at once to the 2000 semi finals, when Wales managed to give Australia a genuine fright at Huddersfield. If Fiji could do something like that it would be fantastic, and should they or New Zealand now knock the Kanagroos off their perch – unlikely though that is – it would only be healthy for the game as a whole. nnKeep Your Eye on Rugby League

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