The blame of Saturday’s loss to Australia has been rested on Henry Perenara’s shoulders after a series of contentious decisions in the second half.
England coach Steve McNamara was clearly distressed at the decision to deny Tom Briscoe a try for double movement, and later when Ben Westwood took a high tackle from Tony Williams. A tackle which many pundits thought Williams should have been dismissed from the field of play.
McNamara said after the match: “There was a double movement call that was a wrong decision as I believe was the decision not to send off Australia’s Tony Williams. It was a dead certainty red card and they came on the back of each other.”
But in all the hysteria of blaming the referee, a quality we English fans of the game seem to be very impressive at, the real reason England lost is being overlooked. McNamara is buying himself some time by shifting the blame unfairly onto New Zealander, Perenara.
But McNamara needs to carefully look at what each individual player has achieved this season to understand why England lost this game, and then take a look at the starting 17 with which he put out at Wembley.
For those who are not privileged to fork out £6.99 a month to watch the NRL on Premier Sports, allow me to explain. After a turbulent 2010 in which the Melbourne Storm were stripped of two Premierships, a minor premiership and all of their competition points, Gareth Widdop has been striking fear into the souls of defences up and down the NRL this season from the number six shirt.
He has been a key component in Melbourne’s rebound season, partnering Cooper Cronk and leading his team to a semi final play off spot and coming so close to making the Grand Final.
He has been chosen consistently by Craig Bellamy to play at stand off for a team that is still sparkling with world class international players. The sale of several key players to rival teams helped Widdop break through, but the 22-year old has taken his chances and produced some outstanding performances for his side.
Thanks to Bellamy’s patience early on in the season, England have at their disposal a player who is consistently playing stand off for his club and can perform with the best of them. The problem is, the England coach doesn’t see Widdop’s potential at stand off.
Here we have a player who is playing in the best league in the world, against the best players and yet McNamara has chosen to play Kevin Sinfield. A player whose best position is loose forward and, thanks to Brian McDermott’s selection policy and tactics which won him Super League plays on average 20 minutes per game in the stand off role, before Rob Burrow acts as super sub off the bench.
I have nothing against Sinfield as a player, and I believe he is one of the most formidable loose forwards in Super League. I just believe that England could have beaten Australia had Widdop been given the chance to use his experience of playing against the same players he has been performing well against all season.
McNamara is keeping his cards close to his chest ahead of the New Zealand match, which is such a crucial game. Despite the need for a reshuffle due to injury to several key players, I fear McNamara will stick to the same three key players in the three pivotal positions of stand off, scrum half and hooker.