John Kear: Time for eight-year plan to cater for developing nations

Yorkshire Post World Cup columnist John Kear.

Yorkshire Post World Cup columnist John Kear.

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THE USA are going to get a hiding today. There’s no doubting that.

But they can either put up the white flag and surrender – as cowboys would, to use the American example – or stand up there, go toe-to-toe with the Aussies and have a real dig in their World Cup quarter-final.

I’m sure Terry Matterson will be speaking to them about the latter and as long as they’re seen to put in an 80-minute effort that will be deemed a success.

As for the future, it is important the great progress the US – and others –have made in this World Cup is not lost.

There needs to be a planned and structured eight-year plan for international rugby league which caters for the developing nations and elite ones, too.

Within that the Great Britain side should be re-introduced but not at the expense of England; that would need to continue as a ‘second team’ to give the likes of Italy, USA, Ireland and Wales someone to compete with.

Wales, for me, have been the biggest disappointment of the tournament. I’m not sure why it happened but with the personnel available to them they should have done a lot, lot better.

The other side that has been a let down is France.

They rode their luck to beat Papua New Guinea being outscored two tries to one, got annihilated against New Zealand when they didn’t even score and – though creating plenty of half-chances – managed only one try versus Samoa on Monday; you are never going to win anything at international level with two tries in three games. They will know themselves that with the talent available to them – everyone in that French squad has played Super League or played for Catalan Dragons – they should have been a lot stronger.

You would hope that should spur them into some sort of response against England tonight and I hope it does as England need to be tested.

That said, if France win at Wigan I’ll sit on the top of Headingley’s main stand and sing La Marseillaise. They’ll get walloped, too, just like the USA.

It is the last game of the quarter-finals that is, without doubt, the best of the round.

Fiji v Samoa at Warrington should be a belter.

They will knock lumps out of each other, so much so neither will be any use for the week after which is good news for Australia.

I am really looking forward to that one; both sides are very physical, direct and confrontational and play on the edge while there is no little skill, too, so it should make for a fascinating game of rugby league.

I fancy Samoa as they are improving as this competition goes on. They were dire against England Knights beforehand but have got better with each game.

I would not write off Fiji, though. Whereas I’d put my house on New Zealand, Australia and England winning the other three quarter-finals, this one is a lot closer to call. They have plenty of talent in that squad.

It was, of course, extremely sad to hear of Steve Prescott’s passing last week.

Since then there has been huge support for the Man of Steel award to be named in his honour.

But I’d go further than that; Steve should have actually won it never mind anything else.

I just don’t agree that it’s effectively a players’ player-of-the-year award.

It should replicate peoples’ contribution to rugby league and Steve’s contribution has been immense especially with the bravery he has shown since being diagnosed with cancer in 2006.

With the Man of Steel you have to look at the wider picture; it’s about courage, bravery and spirit and Steve showed all of those in abundance. That is what it is all about.

He eventually lost the war but won so many battles along the way and inspired so many people.

I think he should be named Man of Steel retrospectively. That would be a fitting tribute to a wonderful player and person.

Interview by Dave Craven.

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