Yes, rugby league was the winner on Saturday. But that will be scant consolation to the beaten Black and Whites – they are all too aware that in another more accurate way Australia were the winners.
And that’s why Great Britain will have to have their wits about them when they clash with New Zealand in Christchurch. The defending champions have lost their opening two games – the second in gut-wrenching fashion – and will be out for revenge on home soil. They will be further psyched up by the fact that a loss here could bring the curtain down on their title defence.
Of course, that could work in the Lions’ favour. The knowledge that the win will help them put one foot in next month’s final will be a definite boost. It will come down to whichever side performs better in a pressurised situation.
The Kiwis have been forced to ring the changes ahead of the game which could upset their preparations. However, they have enough time between now and the game to get used to it. And the new half-back combination of Stacey Jones and Jerome Ropati could hurt Great Britain.
Whatever happens you’d like to think that it will be a close game – not like last year’s debacle at this stage. Whichever side loses is not out of the running completely yet, although the winners will become instant favourites to reach the final.
Newcastle Game Was Critical
Very few people were surprised by Great Britain’s 40-6 win over the Newcastle regional team on Friday. The prevailing attitude was that we should expect to have won by such a margin and the result was nothing to read into.
That is perfectly true, but the game was perhaps more important than might first appear.
Back in 1999 the Tri-Nations was held in Australia and New Zealand, and Great Britain warmed up against Queensland Cup side Burleigh Bears. The Bears game was another that should have been well won – but instead the Lions had to make do with a scrappy 10-6 win.
This result badly affected Great Britain’s campaign and the Lions were thrashed by both Australia and New Zealand before crashing out of the competition. That is why this game was crucial – had the result been anything other than a comfortable win the repercussions could well have been serious.
As things panned out the Lions will now be able to go into the New Zealand game on the back of a decent warm-up rather than going in cold as last year.
Shield Off To A Good Start
The Federation Shield got off to a good start with the double-header in front of a respectable crowd at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Sunday. The Tonga versus Samoa game was an entertaining encounter and the England versus France match made fair viewing.
This tournament is set to be an entertaining one right the way through, and I hope that as many people as possible take the opportunity to see international rugby league live while Great Britain are out of the country. The final especially is one were you would like to see as many people as possible come to Halton Stadium.
Much of the Sky Sports commentary team’s attention was focused on the effect that Les Catalans Dragons’ inclusion in Super League might have on the French team.
I personally would suggest that after one year it is too early to make any serious judgements, but they seemed to think that the positive impact of the Catalans was there for all to see. To that I would say that the French performed no better than they did this time last year, so the Catalans project is a waste of time.
But, like I said first, it’s too early to make any serious judgements on that score.
I would like to see this competition expanded next season once most nations have finished their qualifying for the 2008 World Cup. The celtic nations, along with Fiji possibly, would be valuable inclusions in the tournament.
But for now, I’m happy to see more being done on the international stage.
Keep Your Eye On Rugby League