Five things: England’s fear, Burgess shorts and Petero plays on

Neil Barraclough

One – Time for “the fear” to strike

We’d guess that, whatever had happened at the DW Stadium, there’d have been a deliberate policy within the England camp to play the underdog card all this week and talk down the performance against France.

Unfortunately Saturday’s display meant they could say it all with a fair bit of conviction.

England were never going to lose, but the excuse of complacency – or as Steve McNamara put it: “our team play better with an element of fear in the back of their minds” – is pretty hollow.

This was a World Cup quarter-final. It was England’s fifth game in as many weeks. They have been preparing for this tournament for three years.

By this stage they should be red hot, but instead they’re scratching around looking for some form going into their biggest game in years.

It’s at least 13 years since England put in a good 80-minute stint in a World Cup. That drought needs to end on Saturday, or things could get messy.


Two – Sam Burgess’s shorts: now in smellovision

Strangest sight of the weekend? Sam Burgess doing a post-match TV interview in his England shirt and bright red underpants has to be up there.

Burgess had given his shorts to a woman in the crowd and she’d danced off delighted in a moment caught on the BBC cameras.

BBC host Mark Chapman asked Burgess about it as the replay rolled. “Did you see what the lady did? She runs off with them, she does a little dance, but the best bit is coming.”

Burgess, shaking his head, said: “I hope she doesn’t smell them….”

Cue a clip of said shorts being shoved right up to her nostrils. 

“Oh dear,” said Sam. “What was she thinking?”


Three – Filling in at full-back

All eyes on Australia’s full-back spot after the news Billy Slater is a major doubt to play again in this World Cup.

How do you replace him?

How about Greg Inglis? Jarryd Hayne? Darius Boyd? Hardly short of options, are they?

As one cruel wag pointed out at Cardiff four weeks ago, Sam Tomkins was the third best full-back on the pitch that day.

Aussie boss Tim Sheens is trying to keep his hopes up. He said: “We’ve still not given up the thought that Billy might possibly be available, probably not this week after that sort of knock, but the week after if we get that far.”


Four – A league giant goes out on the biggest stage

Congratulations to Fiji on a magnificent win over Samoa.

Their victory equals the semi final they reached in 2008 and means Petero Civoniceva leaves the sport on the biggest stage going.

Last month the 37-year-old said: “I’ve told the wife I’m leaving the boots behind. I’m playing my last game for Fiji, and that’s it.”

As if anyone needed another reason to get down to London next week…


Five – Walking down Wembley Way

Figures somewhere in the region of 65,000 to 70,000 are being bandied about for Wembley next week.

Two years ago there was a brilliant atmosphere when only 40,000 turned up for England against Australia.

Getting somewhere near double that figure should have the place absolutely rocking.

See you all there!

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Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough