Aside from the opening ceremony, you couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the tournament on Saturday afternoon in Newcastle.
Neither side should have been distracted by the sideshow before the match. Technical issues are everywhere and within every organization, and when you’re just seconds away from kick-off, you know the game plan and you know your duties for the team. The 10-minute delay did not affect that.
That’s why I was very disappointed in Samoa. To be honest, within the first three minutes I knew England was ready for an easy afternoon job.
England absolutely destroyed Samoa in their opening match of the World Cup on Saturday
Samoa just didn’t show up at St James’ Park and was seriously lacking in urgency and energy
Samoa just didn’t show up. They didn’t feel like getting back on their feet. At one point I saw three players on the ground by the time England got the ball moving again. That’s never a good sign.
They may say they are undercooked in the tournament, but to me it doesn’t take any skill to give your absolute max. They will be devastated by the show they put on Saturday.
But England cannot blame Samoa’s shortcomings. They were brilliant about the park and were completely dominant which will put them in a great place mentally.
Victor Radley was named Player of the Match, but England boss Shaun Wane publicly disagreed with that assessment in what some consider harsh comments after the match
However, I understand that Shaun (right) needs to keep his side fully focused for the upcoming matches
When you play against weaker teams, because the gap in quality is so big, it’s almost never a match. So the match is going to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one, and their mindset has been great to keep those intensity levels for the 80 minutes.
However, it is a thin line that Shaun Wane has to tread with his posts. After Saturday’s win, he claimed Victor Radley could play ‘miles better’ and other players deserved the Player of the Match award.
Now, that may seem rather harsh. He played his first game for England after being rejected by Australia, and will have been delighted with that result.
But Shaun knows what he’s doing. He has to say the right things and send the right messages, knowing that his players will listen to what he has to say. For what it’s worth I would have given any of them Player of the Match, they all made 9/10 appearances.
For example, Dom Young played well against Samoa but he is not the finished product yet
There’s a lot of excitement among fans and pundits about England and how they’ve set a milestone for the rest of the league, but it’s way too early for all that talk.
It’s easy to look good against a Samoa team that didn’t show up. Once we get out of the group stage, the competition gets tougher and concentration levels have to be much higher.
The Australians weren’t at their best against Fiji on Saturday night, but they showed that you simply can’t afford to knock out even one second or you will be punished. Cameron Munster, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr are not so generous when it comes to wasting opportunities.
Dom Young, for example, played an excellent game and scored two quality attempts. It doesn’t surprise me that people are getting giddy for him – he has all the trappings to make it to the top – but only when the heat is good and real will we know if the hype is real.
England standards were excellent on Saturday and should remain so
So yes, there is plenty of room for improvement from England. I don’t have much hope that France will make it competitive for them this weekend, but I’d love to see them take a back seat at some point.
Let’s see how England are forced to defend setter starts, parked 10 minutes before their try-line, because that’s what they can expect in the big games.
I’d be surprised if that happened unfortunately, but as long as they can maintain those high standards when it comes to energy and intensity, they’re moving in the right direction.
The National Lottery have provided financial support to clubs and communities across England through the RLWC2021 CreatedBy Grants programme, contributing over £750,000.
Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £9.3 million in aid has been given to support the development of Rugby League between 2022-2027.
This includes funding for the Women’s & Girls competition during the pandemic that allowed the Women’s Super League to restart and as an official partner of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.