It’s the hope that kills you… England could win the World Cup on Saturday but to do so, they have to beat the World Champions, in their own backyard having not beaten them since 2006 in the guise of Great Britain – so what hope?Embed from Getty Images
Well, there is hope for England but as Martin Gleeson put it in his Wigan Today column, every England player has to perform to a 10/10 standard and then we may still need some luck.
We have all been here before, whether it be the 1995 World Cup Final, whether it be a Four Nations Final, an Ashes Series – the story has pretty much always had the same outcome. But what are the reasons to have hope this time, why is the class of 2017 different …
- Wayne Bennett – like him or loathe him, and during this World Cup there have been many England fans that fall in the latter camp. Bennett is the Alex Ferguson of rugby in terms of what he has achieved, he knows how to win – he knows how to beat Australia in a World Cup final – see 2008. He may not play the most attractive brand of rugby you will ever see but he seems to have the trust of the players and although he has played down England’s chances, he will fancy his team to beat Australia in a one-off game on Saturday.
- NRL Stars – Compare the 2008 and 2013 squads with the 2017 squad and the biggest difference is the growing number of English players plying their trade in the toughest rugby competition in the world. That has an effect and has had a positive effect on this England side. The likes of the Burgess brothers, James Graham and Gareth Widdop don’t fear the Australians like English teams have perhaps done so in the past. We now have players who are not only playing in the NRL but are key NRL stars. The fear factor and perhaps mental block of thinking the Australians are just much better at rugby than their English counterparts, doesn’t exist anymore – we have a Clive Churchill Medal winner and the Daly M Stand Off of the year in our side, as well as Super Leagues Man of Steel.
- It’s one game. Let’s not kid ourselves, Australia on paper, are the better side. The English camp isn’t arguing otherwise and rightly so but at the beginning of the tournament Wayne Bennett came in for some criticism when he suggested the opening game of the tournament against Australia didn’t matter in terms of the result – he wanted a performance. He knew that England could beat Australia once but to ask them to do it twice would be difficult. The rules of the tournament mean that you are probably going to have to beat Australia in the final to win the World Cup – as it has fallen. A British test side has not beaten an Australian side since 2006, so to expect a side to all of a sudden beat them twice in the matter of a month is illogical – Bennett knew that. He now has his one-off game. Win it and you are World Champions.
- O’Loughlin – the absence of Josh Hodgson will hit England hard but the form of James Roby ensures that blow may not be as big as first thought. However, should England lose Sean O’Loughlin to a quad injury picked up against Tonga also, that may be a bridge too far for England. Losing O’Loughlin would take away a dimension from England’s game and one that would give Australia a huge advantage.
Come on England! Heart overrules head on this one, lets go for an England victory!
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Australia 10 – 12 England
First Try Scorer: Ryan Hall