This World Cup gets worse for England who have been accused of failing to do enough to promote today's semi-final against New Zealand here. "It's the semi-final of the World Cup and we all have a duty to do the best for the game," said the Kiwis' coach Stephen Kearney at his final press conference before the game.
The England coach, Tony Smith, has been unavailable since Tuesday and looked likely to remain that way right up to kick-off as rumours of a possible link-up with his old club Parramatta swirled round the English camp. The belief from within is that the story in the Sydney press might be part of a "dirty tricks" campaign.
"This smacks of disruption," said a spokesman, although why anyone would feel the need to derail England's preparations when they are doing such a good job themselves, is a moot point. As far as on-field matters are concerned, the Leeds winger or full-back, Lee Smith, did not train on the eve of the game, but Paul Wellens, Leon Pryce and Danny McGuire, who have been injury doubts, all took a full part in the session. England, according to their vice-captain Adrian Morley, are to stand and face New Zealand's haka rather than going into a huddle and ignoring it, as they did before the defeat a week ago.
Australia report a clean bill of health for their semi-final against Fiji, the surprise team of the tournament, in Sydney tomorrow. Fiji will field two players with Super League experience, with Bradford's Semi Tadulala on the left wing and the former Harlequins centre Nick Bradley-Qalilawa on the bench.
The game's leading coach and most influential voice Wayne Bennett says the World Cup is already a guaranteed success, regardless of what happens in the semi-final between England and New Zealand today. The Australian, who is assisting the Kiwis, believes it is part of a healthy improvement in the code's international dimension. "We have to stop listening to people who say the World Cup isn't working," he said. "It is working. The crowds are good, the football has been great and it's going to make a dollar."