World in Waiting: Mark Percival still a World Cup doubt despite play-off return

5 Sep 2022

World in Waiting: Mark Percival still a World Cup doubt despite play-off return

By Steve Mascord

Every Monday we bring you the biggest stories in international rugby league as all eyes turn to RLWC2021. This week doubts over a big England name, the start of World Cup warm-ups and promising news for Joey Manu

First tackle: Uncertainty over Percival

A Super League play-offs comeback for Mark Percival does not guarantee his World Cup involvement, his club coach says.

St Helens centre Percival was the subject of reports over the weekend that he is out of England’s campaign due to bone bruising around a knee.

Saints coach Kristian Woolf insists the 28-year-old is a good chance of being fit for Saints finals campaign over the coming weeks - but told us Percival’s World Cup availability was potentially a separate issue.

“I’d have to have a chat to Mark and I haven’t done that yet,” said Woolf.

“Look, Mark’s an outstanding player. He’s a world class player and he’s a player that I think is everything good about English rugby league. They’ve got so many good players over here and I’d love to see the England team get all those good players together and perform really well and do the competition credit.

“But what I’m about to say is: he’s had a tough year. He’s had a tough three years. The first year I was here, he had shoulder surgery into a hamstring surgery.

“Last year he was out for significant periods and he finished the year with a knee problem that needed surgery. This year he’s had a bone bruising that was going to be three or four weeks - it’s ended up being 14, 15 weeks.

”He’s had a tough number of years and if he was to make himself unavailable (for England), then I’d certainly understand why because at the end of the day he needs to make sure that he’s paying back, I suppose, for what the contract that he deserves and earns … paying back the club a little bit.

“But that’s not a discussion I’ve had with him yet. It’s one that I’ll have in the next week or two, I suppose.

“There’s a lot of things to look at. He’s still carrying an injury. Him playing in two weeks time doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods in terms of injury. What I’m saying is: that’s not a definite result in terms of him not playing in the World Cup but it’s a discussion I’ll have to have with him at some stage.”

Another huge injury doubt for England is Wigan back rower Liam Farrell (knee).

Second tackle: French beat Spain

The World Cup warm-up games have started!

On Saturday, defending champions France took on a relatively new country in the discipline but a fellow World Cup combatant, Spain. The game was played at Fitou in the south of France and the home side’s experience made them too hot for the Spanish.

France ran out a 108-4 winner in a powerful message to other challengers awaiting in England.

Third tackle: Manu likely to be fit for the World Cup

Sydney Roosters star Joey Manu is likely out for the rest of the domestic season with a torn calf muscle.

But the injury is such that New Zealand’s World Cup campaign is still well within his reach. Initial reports indicate he'll be available for the Kiwis.

Former Samoa and United States star Joseph Paulo said upon confirming his retirement over the weekend that Manu was the man who would make the most difference for Michael Maguire's men.

Incidentally, in playing in three men's World Cups (2008, 2013 and 2017), where does that put Paulo? 

The Rugby League Record Keepers' Club tells us it's quite common, actually. The following players have appeared in four: John Atkinson, Kurt Sorenson, Andre RuiZ, Michel Molinier, Kevin Iro, Francis de Nadai, John Whittaker, Bob Fulton, Mark Harris and Arthur Beetson.

Fourth tackle: Jamaica to warm-up in Cumbria

Yet another men’s warm-up game has been announced, with Jamaica travelling to Workington on Friday night October 7.

Romeo Monteith’s Reggae Warriors will meet the Cumbrian county side, with the game kicking off at 7.45pm.

There were worrying scenes for Jamaica yesterday at a World Cup venue, Doncaster’s Eco Power Stadium.

Winger Jerome Yates, of London Skolars, had to be helped off by medics after suffering a leg injury against Doncaster, playing no further part in the match.

But Yates told us: “It’s nothing more than a sprain. I’m struggling to put weight on it today but I’m confident it’ll ease off tomorrow.. The physio said it’s nothing serious.”

Fifth tackle: Hall to make Samoa feel welcome

Samoa will arrive in their host city Doncaster on October 4 to begin preparations for the men’s World Cup. They’ll be greeted by familiar faces in local residents and former Samoan internationals Misi Taulapapa and Fata Sini

Their host is former New Zealand international and CEO of Doncaster RLFC, Carl Hall, who said: “Matt Parish is going to be special guest, joining us at our presentation night with a few of the players - that’s on the seventh of October.

“They’re coming to watch the Donny Rovers (soccer/football) on the eighth of October.“

Hall tipped Samoa to hold an opposed session against Ireland. He said Doncaster were so thrilled with their World Cup involvement so far they would keep their legacy officer,  Martin Rowlands, on after the tournament in a bid to reanimate some local clubs that have become dormant in recent years.

Sixth tackle: Rugby League diplomacy

With Australia’s new prime minister Anthony Albanese a sworn Newtown and South Sydney fan, the age of rugby league diplomacy is here.

Australia’s ambassador to Ireland, Gary Gray, visited St Brendan’s School in Loughshinny outside Dublin last week and was pictured in a Wolfhouds jersey passing the ball to students.

Plenty of Aussie based players, led by Sydney Rooster Luke Keary, are planning to bolster the Irish side at the World Cup.

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