The good, the bad & the ugly: International success, catastrophic Catalans & Elstone comments

Drew Darbyshire

We run through the good and not so good bits over the last seven days in rugby league.

The good

The mid-season international weekend is one that I always look forward to. The international game is certainly on the rise in our sport and everyone is starting to realise that.

New Zealand are the best they’ve been in years, and coach Michael Maguire should get plenty of praise for that. He’s brought the Kiwi culture back and it was absolutely brilliant to see Benji Marshall back in the Black and White jersey as they defeated Tonga 34-14 at the Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

It was great to see the Cook Islands back in action again. The Kukis don’t play many internationals but when they do – they impress. Brad Takairangi captained the Cook Islands in their 66-6 rout of South Africa.

Samoa-Papua New Guinea (24-6) and Fiji-Lebanon (58-14) proved to be entertaining games as well. Players spoke about what it meant representing their countries this weekend and the passion on display was a fine sight. Playing for countries means more to people than playing for clubs – simple.

The bad

Catalans were hammered 50-10 by Hull FC at the Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan on Saturday, and their performance was nothing short of an embarrassment.

Lee Radford’s side scored a couple of great-to-watch tries, but the Dragons were really poor and sluggish in defence.

The Dragons have got a number of first-team players on the treatment table but with the team they had out – they should really be doing better against a top five rival.

Steve McNamara’s Catalans still it fourth place in the Super League table but they need to turn their home ground into a fortress again. They’ve surprisingly lost games at home this year to Salford, London and Hull.

The ugly

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone has hit out at comments made by Great Britain head coach Wayne Bennett about players moving to the NRL.

In a nutshell, Bennett gave credit to former Wigan forward Ryan Sutton, saying that he had improved his chances of playing international rugby because he was playing in the NRL.

Elstone made a statement via Super League, it read: “While several of our leading players have excelled in the NRL and, in all likelihood, more will want to test themselves in that environment, it does feel wrong that the coach of our national coach is linking a move to the NRL so closely to the award of international honours.”

The statement from Elstone was unnecessary and it took the shine of what was a good press conference last Tuesday.

Was Bennett wrong? No. The NRL is the elite competition, so of course players have a better chance of playing Test rugby. It’s like in football – a player in the Premier League would have a better chance of playing for their country rather than a player in the Serie A because the standard is higher.

Bennett’s quotes were taken out of context. In his defence, he also said every single player in the England set up would succeed Down Under and that Britain’s Super League players aren’t appreciated enough by us all. In rugby league, we always find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot and it has got to stop.

More on site

Wayne Bennett lauds England forward pair

Super League Highlights: Round 19

International round-up: New Zealand are back, Fiji impress, Samoa power past Papua New Guinea