Rugby league at last gets a look-in this weekend as three English clubs take on the Aussies in World Club matches.
We keep saying the English game has caught up but last year all three home sides finished second, with St Helens hammered in the main fixture, the World Club Challenge, and last weekend’s Super League matches suggest the same will happen unless home teams shake their feathers. Mind you, if you want to beat the Aussies, get them over here on a freezing night in February.
Saints entertain Sydney Roosters tomorrow (Friday) after looking dreadful when they were thumped at Salford.
Wigan won but didn’t impress against weakened Huddersfield. They meet Brisbane on Saturday, while the big game on Sunday, at the daft time of 7pm, is the official World Club Challenge with Leeds Rhinos against North Queensland Cowboys at Headingley.
Leeds have a stack of injuries and struggling for form and look as if they might need a Chief Running Bear or two to beat the Cowboys, who have the best in the word in Jonathan Thurston. So the best bet to restore pride are the pie eaters of Wigan.
There was a time when Aussies came over for World Challenge matches to do some shopping and have a pre-season warm-up, now they’re taking things seriously and that’s a concern.
By the way, here’s another gem from the RU commentaries: ‘It looked as if it might have gone forward a bit,’ which usually means at least a yard.
England footie boss Roy Hodgson was a pundit on Match of the Day, a strange choice because in his position he’s not going to sit and criticise, especially players he might need. Sure enough he didn’t hit out, mumbling such as: ‘We can never close the door on anyone English,’ and left Alan Shearer to blast poor defending or finishing.
But Roy emerged as something of a Mystic Meg when asked about England’s choice of strikers. Naturally he mentioned Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney. As a bonus, he added the names of Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, who hadn’t played for 10 months.
Sure enough, the following day Walcott and Welbeck, scored the Arsenal goals which beat Leicester. You could have got good odds from the bookies on that double. With foresight like that Mr Hodgson can look forward with confidence to this summer’s Euros.
Batley Bulldogs might want to give the RL fixtures computer a sharp kick because it hasn’t done them any favours. Home games against Leigh and Sheffield and trips to Fev and Halifax in their first four matches is a tough task.
Sheffield visit The Mount on Sunday and still have that huge centre Menzie Yere, who has haunted the Bulldogs for as long as I can remember.
England cricketers blamed dropped catches for losing their one-day series in South Africa. There are fielding coaches and lots of practice but if you’re standing under a skier for what seems like a fortnight with the home crowd howling, you also need a bit of nerve.