This morning saw England triumph over Papua New Guinea 36-6 in the final rugby league world cup quarter final and that saw Super League pair Jermaine McGillvary and man of the match Kallum Watkins feature heavily with two tries each.
Not only did they both score but they both assisted each other and, as they have throughout the tournament, demonstrated a superb understanding in the match which was viewed as a potential banana skin. Their partnership saw McGillvary score his fifth and sixth tries of the tournament and sees him continue his remarkable international scoring record, much like his wing counterpart Ryan Hall.
However, this campaign has seen the Leeds Rhinos’ winger have a less influential impact on the England team and one of the key reasons is down to the lack of a truly world class centre inside of him – which teammate Watkins certainly is inside McGillvary. While 2017 didn’t see Hall at his usual devastating try scoring best for the Super League winners, his international record hasn’t wavered – better than a try a game in the England shirt. But the presence of Wigan’s John Bateman in the number 4 jersey immediately dampens England’s attacking threat on the left edge and sees teams focus on Hall’s threat over the Wigan second rower. Perhaps this is why the right flank is so effective – the fact that both numbers 2 and 3 are genuine strike threats and very real dangers means markers can’t prioritise one over the other leaves them with more space to damage teams.
This is one reason that the calls for Mark Percival to start at 4 in place of Bateman – who, don’t get me wrong, is a top quality forward – are justified. Media and fans alike allude to the fact that England’s attack is focussed and more effective down the right hand side and the team selection is one reason for that.
This being said, England are still in the semi final and will face dark horses Tonga after losing just the one game against Australia so far – it is just painfully obvious for all to see that more needs to be done if England are to really pose a threat to the Aussies in the final.