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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Eye on the Ball

WHAT a World Cup wobbler – not in Whitehaven but down in Cardiff. Here we can sit in the glow of a job well done – two World Cup fixtures in the bag and we’re assured (guaranteed I hope) that Pow Beck stadium will be ready in good time to host them.

But it was the mega World Cup launch in Cardiff that brought plenty of flak. RFL’s Red Hall mandarins who have been lambasted in many quarters, including the rugby press, for failing to tell us where the semi finals and final itself will be played.

“World Cup launches with a whimper,” read the headline in The Rugby League Express.

Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium was a lofty enough stage for the premier World Cup launch but was it a case not for the first time of the RFL shooting itself in the foot by not naming the venues for the crunch games when everybody expected them to?

All the talk beforehand was that Wembley would stage both semi finals with Old Trafford venue for the final. To general angst nothing was said.

All the RFL will say is some interesting and positive developments mean that we have decided just to announce the group games, quarter finals and opening ceremony in Cardiff.”

Perhaps more concerning to many is that Cardiff will host the opening World Cup feature between England and Australia as part of a double header, also featuring Wales.

Now that Union is back on top of the world in Wales and a Millennium Stadium still buzzing from the Red Dragons latest Grand Slam feat, would it not have been better to open the tournament in league’s own back yard?

A potential full house at Old Trafford, for example. We can only hope that the Millennium Stadium and the Welsh public will turn out in force to help fill up most of the 75,000 capacity.

England coach Steve McNamara is confident they will – trust he’s right otherwise our big event really will start with a whimper.

Close to home, though, we’ve nothing much to moan about – in World Cup terms.

True to their word, Red Hall has given us the promised two fixtures. Scotland,Tonga and Italy are the attractions.

We’d loved to have had one of the big boys – England, Australia, New Zealand even Samoa, but as I say after being one of the game’s poor relations no angst.

Great to be a host and I’m sure we’ll put on a good show.

Mind you I don’t think there will be too many Scots and Italian accents to be heard among the teams! Who knows though we may have some bagpipes for the Scots. What’s sure is a genuine South Pacific presence with the Tongans whose big hits I imagine will be heard at the top of Coach Road.

Ex Haven coaches Steve McCormack and Dave Rotheram stay in charge of the Scots.

What I can’t help wondering is whether the name Pow Beck is going to stick – Beck may be Cumbrian but is it sexy enough in these sophisticated times when profile is everything.

More immediately it’s nice we can hail a return to Super League opposition on The old Recre.

Salford City Reds are Whitehaven’s opponents in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup. Some were praying for Wigan, Saints or Leeds, but again we’re not complaining.

This is a Super League side after all, the City Reds battered Bradford Bulls last weekend, and will be hot favourites for the next round. Such is the chasm that exists between Super League and the Championship divisions but never say never to a surprise.

Before the draw Haven’s head coach Don Gailer was heard to say’ I’m sure we could show Wigan a thing or two.’

Tongue in check, no doubt, but what a chance for the amiable Don to really put down a West Cumbrian marker by giving fellow Aussie Phil Vievers a real run for his money.

Good Friday’s local derby clash couldn’t be a better warm up, could it? Sorry Town fans.

Last word this week but most definitely a place of honour to Egremont Rangers and Wath Brow Hornets for doing us all so proud in their Challenge Cup performances against Oldham and West Wales Scorpions respectively.

Just goes to underline the strength of Cumbria’s junior RL code – if it can be transmitted to the seniors then who knows what might be possible down Pow Beck way.

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