Five things we learned: England on right track, European Championship impressive, marketing and effort needs improving  

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

We have picked out the five main talking points from the international weekend.

England team as exciting as it’s ever been

Oliver Gildart scored a stunning solo try on his debut to help England edge past New Zealand 18-16 in a thrilling Test match at the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Saturday.

Both teams played well and it provided us viewers with a fantastic spectacle. If you look at the England squad as a whole, it is one of – if not – the strongest national side England have had in a very long time. You know it is good when the likes of Mark Percival, Tom Johnstone and Scott Taylor aren’t getting in the England side.

England coach Wayne Bennett was bang on the money in his post-match comments. England have got a special team this time around and we should be really proud of them. This could just be the team that sparks life and energy back into the sport.

Long time left for JJB in rugby league

Jamie Jones-Buchanan might be 37 years of age, but there are plenty of years left for him in rugby league!

But it might not be on the pitch for long. It is no secret that the former Great Britain and England international has a love for film production and he has been doing a fantastic job as communications manager of England Knights on their tour of Papua New Guinea this autumn.

If you follow the England Rugby League’s official twitter account, you would have seen the videos of the Knights’ squad enjoying their travels in Brisbane and Lae. Jones-Buchanan has been producing the videos and his work allows us to feel like we are actually in PNG! He is proving great insight so hopefully there will be much more to come from him on and off the pitch.

European Championship puts on a show

The 2018 European Championship got underway on Saturday and it didn’t disappoint.

France bounced back from their defeat to England as Toulouse Olympique star Paul Marcon bagged a hat-trick to help his side ease past defending champions Wales 54-18 in Carcassonne. Wigan Warriors duo Morgan Escare and Romain Navarrete also got on the scoresheet for France.

Stuart Littler made a winning start as Ireland coach as they beat Scotland 36-10 in Santry. The Wolfhounds ran in seven tries, Wigan Warriors centre Jack Higginson bagged a brace while Tyrone McCarthy, Ethan Ryan, Dec O’Donnell, James Bentley and Alan McMahon also scored for Ireland. International rugby league was the real winner on the weekend.

England women on the right track

Woman of Steel Georgia Roche scored twice on her international debut to inspire England women to thrash France 54-4 in Carcassonne on Saturday.

The visitors led 26-0 at half-time thanks to a dominant first half display, before scoring a further 28 points in the second period, while only conceding one try.

As well as Castleford Tigers star Roche scoring twice, with Wigan Warriors’ Becky Greenfield and Leeds Rhinos’ Caitlin Beevers also scored two each. It was a dominant performance from England and if they play regular internationals, there is no reason why they can’t reach the level where the Australian Jillaroos and New Zealand Kiwi Ferns are currently at and be full-time professionals.

Marketing and effort required for strong crowds

A crowd of just 17,649 watched England beat New Zealand at the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Saturday.

It was a poor figure, considering the attendance figure was 6,000 down on the crowd which watched the two sides compete at the same venue just three years ago.

Quite a few rugby league fans who live in the Hull area have got in touch with us and have admitted that very little marketing was done in the city in the build-up to the game. This is poor and needs to be improved. An international game featuring two of the best in the world needs to be close to selling out and marketing needs to be done, there is no doubt about that.

But effort needs to be there from the fans, too. An audience of 1.5million peak watched the game on BBC1 on Saturday, and a lot of them would have been ‘die-hard’ rugby league fans. Why couldn’t they turn up to the game? It is all well and good blaming the RFL at every opportunity, but fans of our beloved game need to do their bit as well. The RFL aren’t miracle workers. Here’s hoping to a much-improved crowd at Anfield for the second Test on Sunday…

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