The whole Zak Hardaker episode is just very, very disappointing in my view.
In an era of full-time professional players, if you can’t curb your socialising for a six-week period, it’s pretty sad.
A World Cup comes around every four or five years and, though he might be disappointed to be left out or feel hard done by, he has to remain professional.
I thought we’d progressed much more than this with our culture in the game but clearly we have not.
Also, Hardaker might not even play in another World Cup. This might rail against him as he’s obviously done something stupid but, also, he could get an injury or something else might prevent him from featuring again. He needed to grasp this opportunity, toe the line and be supportive of the squad. That’s what a true professional is.
I know he’s a team-mate of his at Leeds Rhinos and England but I remember working with Kevin Sinfield at the 2000 World Cup when we had a team meeting discussing disappointments that were driving us on.
Kev told about his disappointment of being left out of the Challenge Cup final earlier that year by Dean Lance and how that inspired him. That was exactly the attitude we wanted and it’s the same now; Hardaker should have used his disappointment to spur him on and gain an inner strength.
It’s good to hopefully see another Leeds player in there this week. I’m a massive Rob Burrow fan and it looks like he’ll get a chance against Fiji. He can spark any team. He is just so difficult to handle and is as brave as a pebble too; if you belt him he just gets back up and takes you on again and again.
He is fiercely competitive and everyone knows about his evasive skills. I’d always look to find a place for him in the 17 and, at hooker, I think he’s the type of player that (if they get that far) those big Australian forwards in the middle won’t fancy tackling.
They may do in the opening 10 minutes but not if he came on after half-hour for 10 minutes before the break. Dangerous.
Steve (McNamara) has made some changes with Michael McIlorum getting his first run too and Lee Mossop coming back in.
Personally, I’d have made the changes against Ireland, though; it’s pretty plain for all to see that Fiji are a stronger side than the Irish. The big one for me, however, is just making sure Sean O’Loughlin comes through okay. If he plays, England can win the World Cup. When it comes to the quarter-finals, I know if I was England I’d prefer to face France rather than Samoa.
Samoa will knock them about if we do play them – they’re not exactly small are they and don’t really use subtly as part of their skillset.
France would be better opponents for England as they may be able to back up better after it than they would do against those big Samoans.
The tournament does just go from strength to strength with every game.
I watched the Scotland v USA game on Thursday night and the Americans – though they lost – have been great.
It is remarkable what they have achieved and it’s wonderful for their players to be facing Australia in the quarter-final. It will be the biggest games of their careers for most of them and a real reward for what they’ve brought to the tournament.
That said, having played three games in nine days and maybe having a couple of suspensions looming, you might end up seeing the scoreboard operator getting his calculator our next Saturday.
I’ll be watching Tonga v Italy at Halifax tomorrow to see if the unbeaten Scots can go through.
It is strange they might not qualify even though they haven’t lost but they knew the rules.
I’m old enough to remember something similar happening to Scotland’s football team in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany too...
Interview by Dave Craven