Rugby league needs to accept British team does not work

The British and Irish Lions catch the eye of all rugby union fans one summer every four years when all four nations pool their resources to take on the best from the Southern Hemisphere.

The Lions have enjoyed mixed success on their tours, famously beating Australia in 2013 before earning a battling draw against New Zealand last time out.

Their record against the Kiwis is not overly flattering, although they have been extremely impressive against Australia. South Africa had the edge on them before their 2021 tour, although the Lions were the leading contenders in the rugby union betting odds to defeat the Springboks.

Whatever the outcome of the series, the rugby displayed on the field is of the highest quality.

The challenge of facing the Lions brings out the best in their opponents, while the players from all four home nations aim to etch their names into the history books of the great men that have donned the red shirt.

Unfortunately that sentiment failed to transfer across codes into rugby league, so much so that the Great Britain team was disbanded for 12 years between 2007 and 2019. Great Britain did compete as one in the early days of the Rugby League World Cup, winning the crown three times.

However, as New Zealand and Australia made significant improvements on the field, their ability to compete with the Southern Hemisphere outfits waned.

The pool of players available to Great Britain was narrowed due to the lack of talent emerging from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Brian Carney was a rare exception who starred in the early 00s in the Tri-Nations, hailing from Cork.

The majority of the players in the Great Britain squad were selected from England, and the leading Super League outfits Wigan, St Helens and Leeds.

There were brief moments of joy in the Tri-Nations competitions, such as a famous 24-12 win over Australia along with back-to-back triumphs over New Zealand in 2004.

However, the Lions under Brian Noble were then crushed by Australia 44-4 in the Grand Final.

The 2006 series ended in equally disappointing fashion as the Lions failed to qualify for the Grand Final, although they did record an impressive 23-12 win against Australia in Sydney for the first time since their tour of 1992.

The departure of Noble left Tony Smith to fill the void, and although the Lions defeated New Zealand 3-0 in a tour in 2007, the appetite to continue the four nations was not evident from both staff and players.

The Lions were disbanded in 2007, and have only returned to action in 2019. However, their tour of New Zealand was nothing short of disastrous. Wayne Bennett and his team lost all four of their games, including a humiliating 28-10 loss to Papua New Guinea at the climax of the tour.

The manner of those defeats has diminished the hope for further Lions action in the code.

The concept does not work as well in rugby league compared to union given the imbalance of talent across the four nations. Rugby league needs to accept this fact and move on for the good of the game.

Greenwood upbeat despite Rams defeat to York

Dewsbury head coach Lee Greenwood was left feeling proud of his Rams side as they fell to defeat against York.

The Knights impressed on their way to a 20-30 victory, and although a disappointing loss for the Rams, the way the match panned out showed Greenwood enough of what his side can conjure up this season.

Speaking after the game, he said: “I thought York were a tad lucky to come in at 14-14 at half time. I thought we should have come into the break leading.

“There were a few errors by us and a few things didn’t go our way. That led it to being even going into the break.

“If I’m being totally honest we’ve just matched up against a side full of Super League and former NRL players. We not only held them off but gave them a huge test.

“Every team makes errors but it’s about how you deal with it when you make those errors. We just need to be a bit stronger in those moments.

“We’ll look at those errors in the week but I really do think if a few thing would have gone our way that, that scoreline could have been turned on its head.

“I’m taking huge positives from that, how can you not? We’ve just gone toe to toe with a team that wanted to be promoted to Super League who have spent loads of money. I’m very proud of the lads and now we go into next week against Halifax with real optimism.”

The Knights are one of the bookies favourites to be promoted this season according to allstar-bets.com/betonline, and even at this early stage of the season, you can see why.

Castleford appoint former Hull FC boss Radford

Castleford Tigers have announced former Hull FC boss Lee Radford as the man to succeed Daryl Powell as head coach, from 2022 onwards.

The 42-year-old left his role at Hull back in March 2020, despite having success in 2016 and 2017 with back-to-back Challenge Cup final success.

The former England, Bradford and Hull forward will replace Powell, who is heading to Warrington at the end of the current season.

“I like what the club is about,” Radford said of his appointment.

“From the outside it is a hardworking, honest, hard-faced club, and I think you know what you’re getting when you come here. I think all those descriptions suit me down to the ground.”

Powell has helped the Tigers become a force to be reckoned with in recent times, where they would almost routinely reach the play-offs, and also appeared in the Challenge Cup and Grand Finals in 2014 and 2017.

But Radford will be hoping to kick on from next season, and build an entertaining team like the one he oversaw at Hull, and Cas will almost certainly be an interesting bet on Betways app ahead of the 2022 season.

“I’m very aware of the brand of rugby that is played at this ground and it’s one I’m looking forward to having an effect on as well,” he added.

“The brand of rugby they play here, I’ve always enjoyed watching it from the outside. I’ve always enjoyed coming up against it and trying to stop it.

“The job Daryl has done has been great over the years. As a club they have been in that tier of the best of the rest behind a Wigan and Saints, and ultimately trying to break that ceiling is going to be what the challenge is.

“I wouldn’t be coming here if I didn’t have aspirations to break that ceiling of what is the top couple of sides in the competition at the moment.

“That is something we will be working tirelessly as a club and as a group to achieve.”

Are St Helens The Team To Beat Again This Season?

This season St Helens are bidding to become the first team to win a third straight Super League Grand Final since Leeds managed the hat-trick of titles in 2009. Saints were successful at Old Trafford in 2019, beating Salford 23-6. They then defended their crown with a victory over Wigan in a low-scoring contest last November at the KCOM Stadium.

Kristian Woolf’s side will become just the second team in the Super League era to win the Grand Final three years running if successful in October. Currently, the bookmakers make St Helens their favourites in the outright market for the Grand Final, as they have rugby league odds of 15/8, with last season’s runners-up just behind them at 9/4. This will be their 16th championship, which will put them six titles behind rivals Wigan, so it is sure to be an interesting one. 

Trio of NRL Players Joined Ahead Of 2021 Campaign

Saints were boosted in the off-season with the trio of signings from the NRL. Joel Thompson, Agnatius Paasi, and Sione Mata’utia have arrived at the Totally Wicked Stadium and should give the squad a big boost.

Thompson joins the Merseyside club from the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. The second-row forward is very experienced with 235 games under his belt in the NRL. He has represented the indigenous All-Stars and the NSW County Origin.

Tonga international Paasi has signed a two-year deal with the Saints. He has already made a big impression as he was handed the Man of the Match award in his side’s victory over Leeds in the Challenge Cup.

Another signing who has international experience is Sione Mata’utia. He has played for both Australia and Samoa. He was released from his contract with the Newcastle Knights in order to sign for St Helens and gives Woolf lots of options.

Saints Unlikely to Lack Motivation

Since he picked up the reins from Justin Holbrook, Woolf has made St Helens even tougher mentally and physically. It, therefore, seems implausible that his side will lack any motivation this season or be complacent.

Woolf will be fully aware that he has the best squad in the Super League after improving the champions defensively. This was evident in the Grand Final last year as they conceded just four points in the win. His players appear to take as much pleasure now at stopping the opposition as scoring tries themselves.

Expect to see more young players blooded into the first team this season. Joe Batchelor, Aaron Smith, and Jack Welsby have all shown a lot of promise over the last couple of years. Woolf is prepared to give youngsters a chance in his team if he feels they are good enough to compete at that level.

The Grand Final this year takes place on the 9th of October. A victory for St Helens would ensure they add their name to the conversation for being one of the best teams in the Super League era. It would also set them up for an unprecedented fourth Super League crown next year.

Lawrence: “It’s an honour and privilege” to captain Giants

Michael Lawrence has said it’s an “honour and a privilege” to be made club captain at Huddersfield Giants.

The 30-year-old forward is a one-club man who stands for everything that is great about the Giants – and the wider Huddersfield community.

Earlier this year Lawrence became a member of the Rugby Football League’s inclusion board as part of the governing body’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and anti-discrimination.

New Giants head coach Ian Watson quickly recognised the regard in which Lawrence is held inside and outside the club and said: “Arriving here, I thought it was important for the club to have a figurehead on the playing side.

“When you come into a new club, you want someone who epitomises what the club represents on and off the field. I’ve been greatly impressed by Michael’s attitude, and he’s been included on the RFL’s new inclusion board.

“Huddersfield is a diverse place and I believe that Michael’s values and attitude mirrors the values of the area, the owner Ken Davy and the club and that’s what I wanted.”

Whilst you’re waiting for the season to begin, you could have a play on some bingo apps to pass the time.

Leeds Rhinos close training ground due to COVID-19

Betfred Super League side Leeds Rhinos have taken the decision to close their training ground for a minimum of five days.

This is due to six players and one member of staff testing positive for COVID-19 over the last ten days. 

Leeds have acted swiftly to ensure the safety of all their players, staff and families.

The cases have been linked by contact tracing however the decision has been taken as a pre-caution to try and halt the spread within the group. 

All players and staff who have tested positive are isolating at home for a minimum of 10 days along with any other individuals who have been identified as a contact trace, as per government guidance.

Rhinos have brought in additional pre-cautions including all players and staff undertaking a Lateral flow test every day before coming into the training ground. 

However, in consultation with the games governing body the RFL, they have now opted to close the training ground for at least five days with all players and staff having to produce a negative PCR test before they return.

All players and staff will also do a Lateral Flow Test each day whilst the training ground is closed.  

The training ground will undergo its scheduled full deep clean this week whilst the players and staff are off site. In line with Government guidelines, Public Health England have been informed.

Leeds Rhinos Director of Rugby Kevin Sinfield commented, “Firstly, I would like to thank our players and staff for how they have adhered to the guidelines and rules in place since we returned to training. 

“We are in a privileged position as an elite sport that we can continue to train. With that privilege comes a great deal of responsibility. Whilst this may be a short disruption to our pre-season plans, it is important that we look after the well being of our people, their families and the local community.  

“We have increased our bio security from last season and everyone is vigilant about ensuring we lessen the probabilities of spreading the virus. Because of our increased testing since New Year, it has become evident that, despite all our pre-cautions, the virus has continued to spread within the group. We hope this short period will act as a fire break and enable us to move forward next week.”

Despite the inconvenience, Leeds Rhinos are still one of the favourites on Betways new app ahead of the new season.

Definitely odds that are worth keeping an eye on.

Betfred Championship and League 1 to return

Betfred Championship and League 1 clubs have targeted the weekend of March 21 as the return date for professional Rugby League outside the Betfred Super League – which will be one year and one week since they were last in action.

Just as the last Rugby League played before the first National Lockdown in March 2020 was in the Challenge Cup, the game is due to return with the First Round of the 2021 Challenge Cup featuring all 13 UK clubs from the Betfred Championship, plus three from League 1 (* – further details below).

That will be followed by the Second Round the following weekend, with the winners of those four ties earning a double reward – a place in the Third Round of the Challenge Cup when the 12 Betfred Super League clubs join the competition on the weekend of April 10-11, and also in the semi finals of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup in June, meaning they will be 80 minutes away from a place at Wembley on July 17.

The Betfred Championship will kick off from April 2-4 – the Easter weekend – and run until a Top Six Play-Off Series in September and October, and there will be plenty of free live streaming apps to watch the matches on.

Each team will play nine of the other 13 teams twice, and the other four once, in the 22-round formula that has been agreed with the clubs – with a decision to be made on a possible 23rd round in the Summer Bash in the coming weeks.

Clubs have already agreed that games played behind closed doors will be streamed live on the RFL’s Our League platforms (app & website) on a pay per view basis, allowing supporters to watch fixtures even if they cannot attend in person – with home season ticket holders given free access to the live stream packages for their club’s league games.

The Championship had been due to kick off on the last weekend in February, but following a short pause in training after the announcement of the latest Lockdown, the clubs agreed with the RFL that delaying the start of the season would be a sensible step given the current public health situation, and a desire to minimise the number of fixtures played behind closed doors before the return of fans to grounds.

For similar reasons, the start of Betfred League 1 has been put back until the weekend of May 8-9. This will still allow each team to play the other nine twice in an 18-round season before a Play-Off series.

Details of promotion and relegation mechanisms between the divisions will be discussed and finalised at a meeting of clubs early next month – ahead of publication of fixtures for Betfred Championship and League 1.

Details of the draw for the first two rounds of the Challenge Cup will be announced shortly. The three Betfred League 1 clubs due to enter are Barrow Raiders, Keighley Cougars and West Wales Raiders.

*Given the unique circumstances of 2021, and with such a lengthy period between the early Challenge Cup rounds and the start of their league season, entry to the Challenge Cup was made optional for the 10 Betfred League 1 clubs, with the RFL stressing the importance of public health and financial considerations.

The majority remained keen to enter, but that would have required an additional, preliminary round on March 14 – which led to the withdrawal of all bar Barrow, Keighley and West Wales, who will now complete a First Round of 16 clubs.

Panthers Fancied to Go One Better in NRL in 2021

Penrith Panthers gave everything in their pursuit of their first NRL Championship since 2003 in this year’s Grand Final but just came up short against Melbourne Storm.

That defeat was all the more agonising because their opponents played the final 10 minutes a man light. Storm ended the game with 11 men on the field after a second sin-binning but somehow managed to hold on thanks to the commanding first-half lead they built up.

It left the Panthers with regrets about how they started their biggest game for 17 years. After topping the regular season ladder and beating two of Sydney’s biggest clubs in the Roosters and the Rabbitohs to reach the Grand Final, there is plenty of positives to take from the campaign, though. Penrith won 20 of their 23 NRL matches in 2020 and some telling statistics show they were among the best at other key aspects of play. Stephen Crichton got 17 tries and only three players managed more.

Kicker Nathan Cleary scored the second-most points of any NRL player in the entire campaign, and he was also third best for goals scored. He also kicked the most metres and nobody had their foot on the ball more. While interceptions and offloads weren’t a major feature of the Panthers’ rugby this year, Jarome Luai finished joint top of the try assists table and was also second for linebreak assists. Apisai Koroisau saw plenty of the ball as was one of only two NRL players that had over 2,500 receipts and put in more than 1,000 tackles.

Penrith also provided smart support play with James Fisher-Harris making a whopping 161 decoy runs, with Cleary also frequently available if teammates needed to pass into his boot. These positive stats explain why they are made clear favourites at 7/2 rugby league odds for the 2021 NRL Grand Final. As they just came up short against Melbourne, who are only 13/2 chances to retain their crown next season, there are some small areas of room for improvement. Crichton made 32 mistakes overall and 27 handling errors which suggest he could’ve scored even more try if he can take the ball in better.

Discipline has also been an occasional issue. Five Panthers players conceded nine or more penalties in the course of the campaign with Luai the main offender on 14. This is something which could be tightened up.

There is enough in these statistics which focus on individual performance rather than the team overall to suggest that Penrith can again be a force next term. The only downside is the loss of their captain and veteran prop James Tamou, who joins the Wests Tigers for the next couple of seasons.

Dressing room and on-pitch leaders are often difficult to replace, but bookmakers clearly believe that the Panthers can respond to both their NRL final defeat and the skipper moving on. Penrith has often found it difficult to follow-up on a fine season, so must prove worthy of market confidence behind them going into 2021

Abram and Carr sign on for the Rams

Dewsbury Rams have announced the signing of young utility player Jamie Abram and highly rated winger Lewis Carr ahead of the 2021 season.

Abram is capable of playing in a variety of positions, including fullback, halfback and hooker.

The youngster is keen to prove his worth as he makes the step up to Championship rugby, having come through both the Salford and Warrington’s academies.

His new side’s odds ahead of the new season are now widely available with Corals new mobile app, and are getting ahead of the pack to get a good squad together, so may be worth a closer look.

Rams head coach Lee Greenwood spoke following the signing, saying: “Jamie could be a real find for us.

“At the moment he covers 9, half and fullback equally well and this utility value should give him a good opportunity of getting onto the field.

“He comes from a strong Rugby League family which means he knows the game and knows what it takes to be successful.

“This is without doubt a step up for him but he certainly has the capabilities to make his mark at Dewsbury and in the Championship.”

The Rams other signing, Carr, has risen through the Castleford Tigers academy system, and holds the record for the most tries scored in a single season, with 39 in just 21 games.

He has also been selected at international level and played for Yorkshire.

Dewsbury Rams announce two re-signings

The Dewsbury Rams have begun announcing their squad for Rugby League’s return with the re-signing of full back Joe Martin and winger Andy Gabriel.

Coach Lee Greenwood’s men were sitting in sixth when Coronavirus brought a halt to the season.

The Rams are gearing up for the re-start in the Championship, with the bookies not currently eyeing them as potential suitors for success.

With that said, if you read more on Unibet Cash Out you could go for a punt on them as they are currently sitting pretty, and cash out if things start to turn sour.

Martin’s signature will please the Rams fan, with the player a firm fans favourite with his dependable performances on the pitch.

Speaking to the official site after signing, Martin said: “I am looking forward to training, and seeing the boys is always good.

“People clicked from the first session so we have all been enjoying it, I think that showed in the performances we were putting in during the 2020 season.

“I’d say thanks for the support so far but do comeback for 2021 and help us get the good times rolling! 

“I look forward to seeing them all when we can UTR.”

Meanwhile, Greenwood was delighted to secure the signature of Gabriel, a player he says has shown he is more than capable of performing at Championship level.

“Gabes has proved himself to be a Championship player since signing 2 years ago.

“He had to be patient in 2019 but ended up being our first choice winger. He has areas to work on like everyone does but his speed and toughness stand out.

“I’m really pleased he has decided to stay with us for 2021.”