THERE has certainly been some turmoil in the England camp ahead of today’s World Cup opening.
But the code of discipline was broken, the management has taken its action swiftly – which is important – and stood by it.
That’s the correct way of doing things.
Gareth Hock has been sent home, it hasn’t dragged on and the door has now firmly been closed shut.
What that enabled was the squad to crack on and concentrate on the rest of the week.
It has been far from ideal in terms of preparation but Steve (McNamara) has made his stand.
If he has left James Graham out of this game with Australia too because of a discipline issue – as is the presumption – then good on him too.
Obviously he’s a massive player for England and he will be a big loss but you have got to have standards of behaviour, especially when you are in camp together, and consequences if you don’t meet them.
It is a really big call by Steve ahead of what is a crucial match but he has stuck to his principles.
Clearly, we don’t want these sort of negative headlines either.
This World Cup is a genuine chance for the sport to really showcase itself.
I don’t think it’s been promoted as well as it should be by the TV channels involved but when we do get on there it should be positive coverage we’re getting.
I think whatever has happened this week – losing against Italy, the drinking issue – will have pulled England together for this afternoon’s game and they will have developed a siege mentality.
I expect a reaction at the Millennium Stadium and a very, very good England performance.
Whether or not that will be enough to beat the Kangaroos is another matter.
I’m not going to kid anyone; if both teams play to their maximum then Australia will win.
They are a magnificent team and any coach who can leave a half-back as brilliant as Daly Cherry-Evans on the sidelines knows he has a pretty special side at his disposal.
Tim Sheens has been able to do that. Tactically, he has preferred Robbie Farrah on the bench and by omitting Manly’s Cherry-Evans it demonstrates the sheer wealth of jewels the Kangaroos have in that position.
I think the playmaking position is going to be the difference and Australia clearly have plenty of them.
People can talk all they want about England’s half-back options and whether Danny Brough should have been in or whether Gareth Widdop should now start.
But Steve pinned his colours to the mast a while ago with the partnership he has now of Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase.
He has tried to get people familiar with each other and, if England win, he will be touted as a genius.
If they lose he’ll be castigated. That’s just the nature of the job.
I think England are really well prepared and now they have to go out there and play with a sense of belief and confidence.
Should they win they are in the final. It is as easy as that. This game in Cardiff may be the first of the tournament but it is effectively a qualifier for the Old Trafford final. Let’s not beat around the bush about what other seedings might do; if England win they are there so today’s fixture is massive and of crucial importance.
If they get to the final, they can win it, so it just shows how important today’s game really is.
It is imperative they prosper to avoid New Zealand in the semis.
However, my main concern is Australia’s last World Cup game was the 2008 final which they lost in that shock against the Kiwis.
Billy Slater had a stinker that day and ‘The Kid’ doesn’t have too many of those.
They’ll be just as highly charged as England to do the business and reclaim the trophy and that is pretty ominous for everyone.
Interview by Dave Craven