RL Weekly: Harsh Lessons, Strong Emotions & International Crisis

Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet says his side learned a 'harsh lesson' in their capitulation against Leeds Rhinos
12:00, 18 May 2023

Matt Peet admits he made mistakes during Wigan’s extraordinary capitulation to Leeds last week, with the head coach adamant a “harsh lesson” has been learned ahead of their Challenge Cup showdown.

The Warriors saw a 14-0 lead over Leeds turn into a 40-18 home defeat in the Betfred Super League on Friday, despite the Rhinos having had a man sent off as they trailed before half-time.

And speaking exclusively to The Sportsman ahead of Saturday’s immediate rematch in the sport’s iconic Cup competition, the 39-year head coach revealed he made some big mistakes himself as he continues to learn his own trade.


“Last week was a harsh lesson and that’s how you take the positives out of it as a team and as a coach,” he said.

“I hope that I’m always learning. If we want our players and our staff to have that attitude then I think it’s essential that I do too.

“Reflecting back, was it my messaging particularly around half-time? I didn’t communicate the message that I wanted to, clearly. 

“I would look at myself first and how we could have handled half-time differently, and then coming out of the game, dealing with such a loss, how you handle that. 

“You do your best to communicate your frustrations with the team and make sure they know that you feel very much with them. Then you try and move on and learn from what happened in the game. 

“In any job you get some things right and some things wrong, and if you don’t overreact one way or the other, if you know what you are aiming for, then you can be strong in your conviction and keep moving forwards.”

Peet takes his side to Headingley this Saturday for the pick of the sixth round ties in the Betfred Challenge Cup, live on the BBC. 

“We’ve spoken a bit about what is at stake but more about the importance of playing well for our fans,” Peet added.

“Players just want to play in big finals at big arenas. There is a fantastic prize at the end of this journey.

“It’s two big teams on a Saturday afternoon on a nice day, and it will be fantastic at a packed Headingley. This is why we all do our jobs.”

Headingley was packed for very different reasons last Sunday, as the city turned out for the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon.

It was humanity at its very best, with emotions so strong along the 26.2 mile route, that it was at times overwhelming. A communal cause, for which thousands were pushing mind and body into depths they had never before experienced, spurred on by a mutual spirit and kindness that reminded us how great human beings can be. 

Marathons are unique like this anyway. But this one felt particularly special. 

One man, with an extraordinary spirit and family behind him, had inspired this. 

Leeds fans always knew Rob Burrow was special. And now the world is seeing it too. 

Former captain Kevin Sinfield and his team pushed Burrow around the arduous course, with current Rhinos boss Rohan Smith and past legends Matt Adamson, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Matt Diskin amongst the many runners. 

But this day was all about Rob, and his remarkable wife Lindsey, who in her own unassuming manner, quietly chalked off her first ever marathon.

Rob, Lindsey, Leeds and rugby league, should all be so proud. This transcended sport.

From the wonderful to the woeful, as the predicted collapse of the 2025 World Cup was confirmed earlier this weekend. France will now not host the tournament after being unable to guarantee its funding following a standoff with the French government. It leaves the ailing international game in further disarray and does little to strengthen the bold legacy claims from last year’s event hosted in the UK.

I got word a few months ago that the competition was in jeopardy, with the organisers’ sums - including projected income from broadcast deals - hugely unrealistic. That led to the recent period of back and forth with the French government, whom - after failing to receive the assurances that it had demanded - withdrew its support and the whole thing collapsed.

The setback is a big embarrassment for French rugby league and the international game, which remains on its knees. 

Fiji, Qatar and South Africa have all jumped in to claim an early interest in taking over as hosts for 2025 but my understanding is that the most likely scenario is for the event to be pushed back a year to 2026. It would most likely take place Down Under, and potentially in a much different format to the all-inclusive event proudly showcased by 2021 organisers in last year’s delayed staging.

Far from basking in the afterglow of last autumn’s World Cup with the building blocks for a revitalised global game, international rugby league is again straight back into crisis.

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