England’s hopes of glory were dashed by Australia in an enthralling World Cup final in Brisbane.
Here are five talking points from England’s dramatic 6-0 defeat.
1: No need for inquiries this time. For once, it is clear exactly where England need to improve. Their defence was outstanding and has been all tournament, but they made too many errors and lacked composure and a killer touch near the Aussies’ goalline, England had more and better chances, but couldn’t finish them. So near, but so far.
2: Australia had the edge in the halves and their kicking game was better. Luke Gale commands games for Castleford Tigers, but he’s not up against a defence as good as Australia’s - or Aussie Test players - for his club. He - and most of his teammates - need more intense competition week-in and week-out. Declining standards in Super League won’t help the England team and that is an issue the RFL need to face up to and address.
3: Cameron Smith - veteran of the NRL and State of Origin - said it was one of the toughest games he has played in. That is massive credit to England, who defied pre-match predictions they would be competitive for only an hour or so. It may not have been an open, free-flowing encounter, but it was gripping from start to finish and a terrific advertisement for the sport and those who play it.
4: England’s wingers, Ryan Hall and Jermaine McGillvary - who was arguably player of the tournament - would get into any team in the world. Hall’s Leeds Rhinos teammate Kallum Watkins proved he is world class, but John Bateman’s inclusion at centre was a waste of three players: Hall, himself - as he’s a quality back-rower - and Mark Percival, who would have been a better option.
5: International rugby league is the way to grow the sport. One of the stumbling blocks is the attitude of Australians who regard State of Origin as the priority, followed by the NRL with everything else a distant third. England’s narrow defeat was agonising, but a huge shot in the arm for the game globally at the end of a positive tournament.