|Rugby League: I'm with you Tony, England should be pessimistic
||[Oct. 14th, 2009|04:44 pm]
Tony Smith couldn't resist having a pop at the media when he announced his England squad.|
He wouldn't be playing our game of inflating expectations and then getting shirty when the national side fails to meet them, he said, as though that is some sort of pre-conceived policy on the part of the rugby league press.
Expectations were high before the World Cup because, in most departments, we didn't have a bad squad. The failure was that it didn't add up to the sum of its parts - which is as good a working definition of under-achievement as any.
All the same, I'm prepared to do my bit. As I told Tony, if it does any good to dampen down expectations at this stage, I'm ready to help.
To be fair, the coach has made a pretty solid start on that project.
Some of the names in the squad will do a good job of banishing any starry-eyed optimism.
For instance, it is amazing to see Paul Sykes there after his World Cup and not much less surprising to find Chris Bridge included. Bridge has clearly impressed Smith since he took over at Warrington - and he is undeniably a useful and versatile player at club level.
But a Test centre - which is what Smith sees him as - well, I'd be delighted to be proved wrong, but I just can't see it.
I'd have had a word with Keith Senior about going around one more time. A short-term expedient? Of course it is, but not as short-term as picking Lee Smith, who will be a rugby union player at the end of November.
And having Senior there would surely have been a help to Ryan Hall in the early stages of what should be a long Test career.
If you're looking for young centres of potential to include in the squad, I'd have been inclined to look at Kris Welham and Michael Lawrence. Both young and raw, of course, but real centres in the making.
Of all the World Cup players weeded out, the one I feel sorry for is Rob Burrow, who must wonder what he has done wrong this season. He is really the victim of circumstances beyond his control, in that England suddenly has three exciting 20-year-old half-back prospects - Myler, Tomkins and Eastmond - all of whom Smith understandably wants to introduce at this level as soon as possible.
At 27, Burrow has been pushed out by this potential golden generation of half-back talent.
The luckiest player in the squad, based on his late-season form, is Scott Moore, who lost it badly in the closing weeks of the campaign. He is fortunate that Smith has a long memory and can recall his form in mid-summer.