x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Four Nations really two majors and two minors

The Rugby league Four Nations gets underway with New Zealand facing Australia. And that is likely a preview of the championship, with Wales and England looking like second-class citizens.

Let's cut out the middlemen. Rugby league's Four Nations kicks off tonight in the UK with New Zealand, the world champions, playing the mighty Australia.

Why not just call the game the final and have done with a tournament with such underwhelming popular appeal. The two southern hemisphere sides seem certain to meet again when the competition reaches its climax in Leeds on November 19, as neither England nor Wales look capable of competing with either of them.

Richard Lewis, the RFL chairman, has predicted a keenly contested tournament. "I think we can expect to see some of the most memorable rugby league action ever seen," he was quoted as saying. What a load of rubbish.

After years of diluting the talent pool in Super League by signing Antipodean imports, the UK sides are second-class citizens on the international stage. But Steve McNamara, the England coach, has a cunning plan. He has taken a leaf out of Super League's book by recruiting players direct from the NRL. Calling up Gareth Ellis is fair enough, as he learned his trade in England, but three of the squad - Gareth Widdop, Jack Reed and Chris Heighington - have only played professionally in Australia. McNamara has also found a place for Rangi Chase, already a Maori international.

The fact that Australian clubs have more players in the England squad than the Warrington Wolves, the League Leaders Shield winners, speaks volumes.

 

sentwistle@thenational.ae

 

UAE TV: Four Nations - New Zealand v Australia, 11pm, OSN Sports 1 & 2