I’ve got to be honest, I’m not a fan of the new Anglo-French Challenge.
My Sheffield Eagles side are in France to play AS Carcassonne this weekend but I’m struggling to understand what the whole point of it is.
There’s four Championship clubs – us, Featherstone Rovers, Halifax and Leigh – taking on Carcassonne, Pia, Toulouse and Avignon but it’s not brilliant.
When it was initially announced the idea was for our Grand Final winners Featherstone to be playing their champions Pia.
However, it’s not worked out quite how the RFL wanted; with the English and French seasons starting and finishing at different times, it’s meant Carcossonne are now the new French Elite One champions – and we’re playing them.
They beat Pia 26-20 in their final three weeks ago.
Logistically, it’s far from ideal too.
We had to be in a hotel on Thursday night ready for a 4.30am start Friday morning.
We’ve then got an early flight back as well on Sunday morning when we’ll be leaving our hotel at 7am.
Then we’ve got a huge league game on Thursday evening.
It’s not a great concept and I don’t understand the gist of it.
I know I’m not the only one saying this and asking what benefit it brings to us, to them or to anyone.
It’s a lot of inconvenience, especially when you consider we have then got that massive Championship match against Leigh on Sky that Thursday.
They are just a point behind us in the table and clearly it’s going to be a real test.
It’s no surprise I’ve left a number of our players at home while we’ve come to France and I’ve given some of our younger players a chance.
The Anglo-French Challenge is also a big commitment in terms of finance as there’s a massive expense.
Granted, the RFL are looking after the costs but it could still be used better. I could certainly spend it more wisely.
I just don’t see the value of it and we need to make sure we go forward next year without it.
I’ll be putting my hand up to say that; it’s an extra game that nobody needs.
There’s already going to be more games in the Championship next season as the competition is extended from 10 to 14 clubs.
We’re going to be playing more than ever and we just don’t need to be killing part-time players with matches like this.
We need to keep the quality high and, to be fair, the quality of our competition is currently very good. We don’t want to be diluting that in any way.
Also, it can’t be forgotten that the Championship is semi-professional and obviously players have jobs as well as playing and training with us.
As regards our season we are going okay. I thought we were outstanding against Batley last week when we won 26-16 against a very good Bulldogs team.
With the ball we know we can play – we have the best offensive record in the Championship scoring, on average, 35 points per game. The key now for us is to tighten up defensively.
Clearly, that needs to improve and we’ve shown signs of that against Batley.
We’ve had some really tough games – which backs up what I’ve been saying about how competitive the Championship is – and we’ve had a couple of blips where things haven’t gone our way. We’ve lost by the odd point. There was a game (against Leigh Centurions) where we had a ‘try’ disallowed and I’m still looking and searching for reasons why that happened...
I’m relatively happy with how things are progressing but there is more to come.
We’ve obviously been to France already this year when we played Catalan in the Challenge Cup.
They were clearly a very, very good Super League team and we got beaten quite heavily.
But, when they were in the Championship, we were never defeated by Toulouse in France and that’s a proud record we want to keep when we face Carcassonne. Right or wrong.
Interview by Dave Craven