Rugby League: Why London must win the battle of hearts

AFTER THE glories of the Five Nations' Championship the clear message to rugby league is "follow that". And the fact that the great climax between Wales and England took place at Wembley will put pressure on Leeds and London Broncos to produce a stirring show at the stadium on Saturday.

I've enjoyed my rugby league Challenge Cup excursions with BBC Grandstand over the past months and the standard has been superb since the start of the Super League. Unfortunately, the League games don't get the same exposure, being on Sky TV, so the game has slipped right out of the limelight in these last couple of weeks.

I saw some cracking games over Easter but the attention of most sports fans has been elsewhere and the boys in action at Wembley this week have the responsibility of putting their game back on the map again. The onus will be doubly great on the Broncos because not only are they up against the undoubted favourites for the match, but they also have the extra job of giving a much-needed boost to the game's popularity in London.

It may be asking too much to expect them to create another big surprise so soon after Sheffield's shock victory over Wigan last year, but they certainly have the ability to do so. There was a double edge to Sheffield's giant-killing act. It gives hope to every underdog, but at the same time it kills off any chance of complacency among the bigger clubs.

Certainly, Leeds will be on their guard and London will get no comfort from studying the path their opponents have taken to Wembley. Leeds have beaten Wigan, St Helens and Bradford, so no one can question their right to be there. On the other hand, London will take heart from Leeds' reputation as the biggest under-achievers in British sport over the last 10 years.

They are one of the best-established clubs, with a large and loyal following and an excellent ground, but in recent years they have continually threatened glory without actually delivering much. I have a great respect for their Australian coach, Graham Murray, and he seems to have turned them into real prospects. Whereas they have long been star-packed, they tended to perform as a collection of individuals. Murray has moulded them together so that they perform more as a unit. Now they have good individuals who operate within a sound team structure.

Ryan Sheridan is an excellent scrum-half, and although Iestyn Harris has settled at full-back they can push him forward to stand-off if required. They have strength in the centres, where Brad Godden is in fine form, and the backs benefit from a big, strong pack in which Lee Jackson is performing exceptionally well since his return from Australia. Adrian Morley and the Australian Mark Glanville help to give the team a strong back-bone in which the defence has been shored up tightly.

I fancy that Leeds have slackened off a little since they have reached the final, but once they finish their business at Wembley they are capable of making a charge for the Super League. With the backing of Virgin, the London Broncos have all the incentive they need to do well. Even if they fall short of winning the trophy they must produce a performance that will capture some southern hearts.

Under Dan Stains and Tony Rae they have made promising progress this season, but the biggest job of their coaches is to make them believe they can win.

That task will be a lot easier if Shaun Edwards plays. His broken thumb is not the easiest injury to ignore but I'll be very surprised if he doesn't take part. He knows more than anyone how important this occasion is to the future of the Broncos and, as no other player in the game is as familiar with Wembley and its demands as he is, his presence is vital.

They have match-winning players in Martin Offiah, the former All Black John Timu, Peter Gill and the hooker Rob Beazley. With so many Australians in their team, they will not lack the right attitude. Their injury problems have been horrendous recently, but their spirit has been tremendous and that is going to ensure we get a storming match. You have to favour Leeds very strongly but do not forget how much we fancied Wigan last year.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor