'With an English referee we would have won more heavily'

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The Independent Online
I have never been as jumpy before a match as I was at Old Trafford on Saturday. Standing next to Andy Platt - a player who has seen and done just about everything in the game - for the pre-match presentations, I was surprised to find just how very, very nervous we both were.

The Welsh anthem is very strong emotional, lump-in-the-throat stuff and their fans were really getting behind them.We needed to talk to each other throughout the preliminaries to calm each other down - something I've not often found the need to do during my career.

The temperature was pretty high once the game started, as well, and a lot of people have commented on that mate-against-mate element, the way that team-mates and former team-mates were locking horns - like club colleagues in the Australian State of Origin series, for instance, or like Kelvin Skerrett and myself at Old Trafford.

The truth of the matter is that old alliances do not really have much of an impact once you are out there in the thick of it. The pace of the game is such that you don't get a chance to prepare anything special for an opponent that you might want to prove something to.

The way the game went was pretty much the way we had planned it in training, which is always a good sign. We knew we had to speed up the game, especially around the play-the-ball, which is what we did.

Eddie Ward is a referee who keeps a big 10 metres, which suited us very nicely, but English referees are stricter on lying-on at the play-the-ball than Australians.

For that reason, I believe that with an English referee we would have beaten Wales more heavily. They still seemed tired to me after their game against Western Samoa and one or two players were carrying injuries.

We knew we had not to get dragged into trench warfare with the Welsh, though. If we needed any reminder, it was there for us when we watched them singing their anthem in those red shirts and saw how big they looked.

In reality, the game was never going to be like that. When I started out at Wigan seven years ago, with a five-metre gap at the play-the-ball, it could be like that, but we are out of those trenches now - the game has moved on.

We have to be happy with the way it all went at Old Trafford and the fact that we will be at Wembley for the final on Saturday. I still feel, though, that we can play a lot better than we have done so far in the tournament.

There is more cohesion to be found yet and when we go into camp again on Wednesday to prepare for Wembley, that is the missing ingredient we will be looking for.

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