BBC BLOGS - George Riley

Archives for November 2011

Is Tomkins's Barbarians outing flattering or unwelcome?

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George Riley George Riley | 07:23 UK time, Friday, 25 November 2011

Sam Tomkins's decision to play rugby union for the Barbarians against Australia on Saturday has divided opinion among league fans and commentators.

So is the union interest in league's brightest young star flattering or unwelcome?

Coming so soon after Tomkins committed his future to Wigan in the face of strong interest from union, and after brother Joel did opt to switch codes, the news prompted the inevitable fears that Sam will indeed follow suit before the end of his new contract as league cannot compete financially with union.

Tomkins is adamant that this is not the first step towards him quitting league for union.

The Warriors full-back baulks at suggestions that he is doing it solely for money and in a bid to land a lucrative union contract.

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Hope for England despite final defeat

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George Riley George Riley | 22:41 UK time, Sunday, 20 November 2011

Are England destined to be a permanent second or third best on the big stage to Australia and New Zealand? Or was the 30-8 Four Nations final defeat against the Kangaroos another vital step forward in coach Steve McNamara's long-term plan, focused on winning the 2013 World Cup?

Despite an impressive victory over New Zealand en route to the final, the host nation were ultimately undone by superior opposition on Saturday, leaving England fans and players alike wondering whether it was just the same old story.

Before the match, however, confidence in the camp had been high.

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New look England impress under McNamara

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George Riley George Riley | 15:01 UK time, Sunday, 13 November 2011

England's performance in demolishing world champions New Zealand was another powerful step in the right direction.

One big win does not necessarily enhance England's chances of toppling Australia in Saturday's final, but it has certainly proved just what this team of players is capable of.

This is the best England side I have seen in a long time, and regardless of the outcome at Elland Road, coach Steve McNamara will already feel justified in the controversial calls he has made.

Maori Rangi Chase dealt effectively with the special treatment he was always likely to receive from his Kiwi mates. McNamara told me the following morning that Chase produced his "most controlled performance for us so far".

His preferred half-back pairing of Chase and man-of-the-match Kevin Sinfield - traditionally a loose forward - must surely be winning over the doubters too.

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Inexperienced referee hurts England

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George Riley George Riley | 15:45 UK time, Sunday, 6 November 2011

Had there been an experienced referee in charge at Wembley on Saturday then Australia may well have still beaten England but at least Steve McNamara's men would have felt they had a fighting chance.

There was both pride and frustration at the full-time hooter. Pride in England's excellent effort against the tournament favourites, pride in seeing international rugby league back at Wembley for the first time in 14 years and pride in seeing a thrilling spectacle played out live on the BBC on a Saturday afternoon.

The frustration for England came from being dealt a really bad hand by New Zealand official Henry Perenara, who was officiating only his second Test.

It's not good when officials are blamed for results. You see and hear it from football managers every weekend in the Premier League and you just laugh it off as heat of the moment sour grapes from the defeated party.

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