Jamie Peacock column: Rubik's cubes, lost rings & the next steps

Former Great Britain and England forward Jamie Peacock

Former England and Great Britain captain Jamie Peacock is part of the BBC Sport team covering the Rugby League World Cup. In the second of a series of columns Jamie looks at life inside the England camp and examines three areas where England can improve on the pitch.

Second-rower Ben Westwood can usually be found rounding up people to watch Jeremy Kyle and snores so loudly it is like he has sneaked a dog into the bedroom.

Winger Ryan Hall can tell you more than you ever want to know about algebra and completes a Rubik's cube in about 24 seconds.

If you ever wanted a game of poker, just look for Adrian Morley.

Any sporting squad comprises a diverse combination of personalities and during a long tournament you get to know all about them.

If the England team reach the World Cup final on 30 November they will have been in camp for the best part of two months and there is no doubt that spending weeks together can occasionally do your head in.

There will be times when a small part of a person's personality will start to irritate you, but I generally enjoyed it and have some lifelong memories.

For example, back in 2006 I overdid the sun cream on the beach in Sydney and my wedding ring came flying off in a game of beach volleyball. I was desperately looking for it while winger Brian Carney laughed his head off, saying "of course your wife is going to believe you lost your wedding ring on tour playing beach volleyball". A few hours went by before a man with a metal detector found it. Relieved? You bet.

Although we only played six games together at club level for Bradford, fellow forward Morley is one of the best friends I have made playing rugby. Our friendship was forged standing shoulder to shoulder for Great Britain and England - and during the time spent preparing for the matches.

How well the details off the pitch are thought through can make a big difference to success on it.

At the 2008 World Cup in Australia the players were allowed to choose their own room-mates, which looking back was a mistake because people just picked their club team-mates. Nobody was forced to get to know anyone they didn't know so well.

Two years later, just after Steve McNamara took over, all the players and staff sat down at our new base in Loughborough for a very honest meeting. We asked why we were not winning more games and what could be done about it.

One of the big things was that we were not honest enough with each other because we did not know each other well enough. Since then, Steve has worked really hard to build the spirit in his squad and a sense of identity for his team.

Towards the end of last week it looked to some on the outside that the England camp was in turmoil. Gareth Hock had been thrown out, James Graham was not in the squad to face Australia and Steve walked out of his news conference on Friday.

I played with Steve at Bradford and know that he is not a particularly confrontational person, he is a guy who likes to get on with people, but credit to him, he took some tough decisions last week.

Managing people and situations is a huge part of being a coach and ducking the difficult issues does not work.

The day before the 1999 Grand Final, I had to go up to Bradford coach Matthew Elliott and ask him whether I was playing. I wasn't. Another time we were playing a league match at St Helens and it was not until I got on to the coach to travel to the game that I was told I was not in the team. This did not do much for our relationship.

But Steve tackled the issues he faced head-on and in my experience the best players always respect honesty from their coach. They might not like what they are told but they go away to deal with it and then come back a better player and person.

The events of last week did not seem to have a negative impact on England's performance against Australia.

OK, England eventually lost 28-20 but I thought some of the debutants - the likes of George Burgess, Brett Ferres, Leroy Cudjoe and Chris Hill - were sensational.

It was especially encouraging that England still have room for improvement. It is not as though we lost by eight points with all of our players performing to their maximum.

The eventual return of Graham and Shaun O'Loughlin will significantly strengthen the team, while the three things we need to fix are not difficult.

The first is concentration. We need to concentrate for every second of every play. The second is that we need to improve bringing the ball out of our own half and the third is discipline.

England must start to do this in the game against Ireland. They now need to build every week with the intention of being in top form for a probable semi-final against New Zealand.

Saturday's game in Huddersfield is a sell-out, which rarely happens in international rugby league. It is fantastic and the sort of atmosphere you dream about when you imagine playing for your country.

The crowd has risen to the occasion, now the team must do too.

Jamie Peacock was talking to BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher.

Rugby League World Cup

Dates:
26 October to 30 November
Coverage:
Live BBC TV, radio and online coverage of all England's group matches and Wales v Italy, plus one quarter-final, one semi-final and the final; every game live on BBC Radio 5 live or 5 live sports extra

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