THE ICING: Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott lift the World Club Challenge trophy as the North Queensland Cowboys celebrate victory over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley yesterday.
THE ICING: Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott lift the World Club Challenge trophy as the North Queensland Cowboys celebrate victory over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley yesterday. Alex Liveseygetty Images

Wayne has work to do after UK clubs’ poundings

If the form of Super League's three best clubs - Leeds, Wigan and St Helens - is any guide, new England coach Wayne Bennett will earn every pound he is getting paid to coach the team in this year's Four Nations tournament.

After missing out to Mal Meninga for the vacant Kangaroos job, Bennett signed a two-year-deal to coach England in this year's Four Nations against Australia, New Zealand and Scotland, as well as the 2017 World Cup

Bennett said his motivation was to help England close the gap on Australia, but after this year's World Club Challenge series at the weekend, he may be wondering just how he is going to do that.

Given the style and power in which North Queensland, Brisbane and the Sydney Roosters swept the series for the second straight year, Bennett will have his work cut out.

Despite the difficult English conditions and boisterous crowds, the three Aussie clubs piled on 118 points to 28 and scored 21 tries to five, highlighting the significant void which still exists between the two hemispheres.

Bennett is banking on the fact that several good-quality players from the UK, headed by Bulldogs captain James Graham and South Sydney favourite Sam Burgess, are running around in the NRL.

But new Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga would have been rubbing his hands together with joy as he watched many of his Test players in action for their clubs.

England beat New Zealand 2-1 in a Test series late last year, suggesting they had made some strides under former coach Steve McNamara, but the England rugby league power brokers wanted 66-year-old Bennett and went after him hard.

After the weekend's results, they will no doubt be praying the master coach, recruited by New Zealand before the Kiwis beat Australia in the 2008 World Cup final, can work the same miracle with England.

Meanwhile, Johnathan Thurston has added the last piece of silverware to his amazing career, leading North Queensland to a 38-4 victory over English Super League champion Leeds.

"We're world club champions, how good is that," said Thurston, who pulled out of the Indigenous All Stars side in the hope of winning the WCC match against Leeds.

In other league news, Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah has been booked for scans today after suffering a knee injury in Saturday's 30-all draw with Cronulla. It's not good news for coach Jason Taylor who already has his other hooker, ex-Manly rake, Mat Ballin, out of action with a knee injury.

The Tigers open their NRL season against the Warriors at Campbelltown on Saturday week.



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