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“Recent history is not on France’s side. Their performance in the 2008

World Cup was woeful...”

Up-front lead: France prop Remi Casty is swamped by the English defence in Salford

SWPix.com was woeful. After beating Scotland, they lost their other group match by 42-6 to Fiji before going down 42-10 to Samoa in the play-off for ninth and tenth place. Disharmony within the group, coached by John Monie, was unofficially given as the reason for the below-par displays.

Tensions between the Catalan Dragons and the rest of the squad, and between the Dragons and the Federation, now belong in the past, though the squad is still some way from fulfilling its potential and from rivalling the top international sides, as two 40-point defeats against England proved in the autumn.

But with no permanent coach in place, there can be no detailed planning and no statement of objectives. As France team manager and former international winger Cyrille Pons said: “We don’t have too much information at the moment, but in my view we shouldn’t break up something which hasn’t been doing badly.”

If the Federation gave Cologni the goahead, it would still seem likely that another, more experienced international figure would be brought in alongside him. The vastly experienced David Waite, already named in a similar role at the Catalans having returned to Super League from Australia, is one who springs to mind.

France’s World Cup squad cannot be very much different from what we have already seen, given that their pool of players is quite shallow. Much will depend on the Catalans’ season, but, barring mishap, it can be expected that Olivier Elima and Rémi Casty will give a lead up front, while Thomas Bosc will pull the strings behind.

Of the younger Catalans likely to make the breakthrough this coming year, winger Damien Cardace held his place in the Super League team in 2012, while prop Julian Bousquet has shown a good deal of raw promise. William Barthau has also given signs of making his presence felt, and second rowers Michael Simon, Antoni Maria and Kévin Larroyer should now be ready to take on the best.

France’s World Cup may well prove to be remembered not so much for the results as for the coming-of-age of some of these talented young players.

Pride in the shirt: Canada Wolverines prepare for the action

CRL

Canada making strides the game is a testament. As long as players of this calibre keep on being produced, Canada Rugby League will keep on rising.”

The international Wolverines kicked off their 2012 season with a match against old foes Jamaica, winning 18-12. But the highlight throughout the year was the crowds attracted, just under 5,000 in Toronto. They followed that with, arguably, their best-ever performance to defeat Lebanon 36-18 and, despite a Geoff Bylund hat-trick, narrowly went down 28-24 to World Cup-bound USA. Their North American neighbours completed Colonial Cup victory with a 36-14 triumph in the return leg.

Another highly impressive crowd rolled up to the Lamport Stadium to see the England

Community Lions, whose experience in a comfortable 68-4 win provided a benchmark for where the Wolverines are.

According to Lester: “There is much to be excited about. BC produced six Canadian internationals in their first season and fellow newcomers Ottawa Rhinos had four players make their debut for the national side. That expansion has been encouraging.

“The attendance for each international was a remarkable achievement and we will be looking to build on that momentum in 2013. As a reward for our on-field efforts, the latest RLIF rankings saw us jump from 21st to 18th and our mid-term goal is to make the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.”

He summed up: “There has been much to like about the progress of Canada RL and the Wolverines since their inception in 2010. However, there is plenty of hard work to be done before becoming the rugby league powerhouse we dream of. If 2012 is any indication, the future looks epic.”

Phil Caplan

January 2013 Forty-20 41

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