Rugby League World Cup organisers were forced into an embarrassing apology after a technical failure cut short the tournament’s opening ceremony, before England delivered a stunning performance to dismantle Samoa.
The 43,000-plus crowd inside St James’ Park were expecting to see a pre-match set from Kaiser Chiefs before the tournament kicked off. However, the stadium’s public address system failed, leaving the lead singer, Ricky Wilson, sprinting up and down the touchline to raise spirits among supportersminutes before the tournament began.
Shaun Wane’s side put that chaos to one side to destroy Samoa 60-6 and assume pole position in Group A. But the tournament’s chief executive, Jon Dutton, said he was “devastated” and took personal responsibility for the pre-match mishap, before organisers released a statement during the game.
“RLWC2021 would like to sincerely apologise for the disrupted Tournament Welcome, which was severely affected by technical failure,” it said. “It wasn’t the start we wanted but we would like to thank fans for their patience and for continuing to celebrate the teams and the tournament.”
Meanwhile, Wane said his England side have enjoyed the negative press surrounding his side’s tournament prospects before warning there is much more to come from the hosts after their opening-day victory.
A Samoa side filled with NRL superstars and Grand Final winners had been made favourites by the bookmakers. But England made a mockery of that by scoring 10 tries to their opponents’ one to start the tournament in scintillating fashion. It left Wane impressed, but far from convinced that his side have hit their peak.
“I thought we did some really good things but there are improvements in us, let me tell you that,” he said. “No question. I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but I know what we can do. Without a shadow of a doubt we can improve.”
Anticipating a decisive battle up front, Wane selected four forwards on his bench and was delighted with the dominant performance from his pack. “They were 10, 15, 20 kilos a man heavier than us and for us to manage that so well was outstanding,” he said. “One thing we do have is big hearts and we don’t back down from anyone. That will bode well for us further in the competition.”
One of England’s stars was the wing Dom Young, whose mother hails from Newcastle. He backed up his impressive international debut in last weekend’s warm-up against Fiji at Salford with two tries on his Test debut. The 21-year-old said: “To have all my family here watching, it’s a dream come true. I hope my mum and grandma were extra proud given how it was in Newcastle.”