Favourites England make perfect start to Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup

England lived up to their billing as favourites to win the wheelchair tournament of the Rugby League World Cup with an impressive 38-8 victory over Australia on the opening day of the competition.

Man-of-the-match Jack Brown was the star of the show at Copper Box Arena with a brace of tries during an all-action display, while Joe Coyd and Nathan Collins also helped themselves to doubles.

Collins produced 16 points in total with Lewis King the other try scorers for Tom Coyd’s side, who had watched Ireland and Spain produce an entertaining clash to get the tournament under way earlier on Thursday.

Spain eventually triumphed 55-32 on what proved a record-breaking day with a crowd of 3,033 across both games at the Olympic Park venue, setting a new best attendance for a wheelchair rugby league fixture.

This was the first time the wheelchair competition had taken place at the same time as the men and women’s World Cups with participation fees also equal for each competitor.

Seb Bechara signalled England’s intention with a huge smash on Australia number eight Zac Schumacher in the first minute and despite the hosts squandering two early openings, it was the visitors who got the scoring started in London.

Jack Brown
Jack Brown scored two tries for England (Steven Paston/PA)

Diab Karim made the most of Rob Hawkins’ failure to claim a high pass by going over in the corner to put the Wheelaroos ahead by the 10-minute mark.

It only proved to further jolt Tom Coyd’s team into action though and it was the younger brother of the England head coach who flipped the momentum with two tries in three minutes.

Joe Coyd brilliantly swivelled in between Australia duo Karim and Brad Grove to open the account of the home team in the tournament after 19 minutes and repeated the trick soon after.

England were going through the gears now and the introduction of the numberless Brown only served to increase their threat.

Brown crossed twice in between fellow replacement Collins getting in on the act to ensure a healthy half-time lead of 20 points had been established.

It would have been more had Brown not been denied a treble by some last-ditch Aussie defending, which saw both posts floored alongside England’s number six.

The hosts were eager not to let their momentum slip in front of a youthful and exuberant Copper Box crowd and quickly added to their 26-6 advantage after the interval.

Lewis King touched down after 46 minutes before Brown, one of two non-disabled players permitted in the team, took centre stage.

The 2020 Golden Boot winner came closer to adding another highlight to his showreel when he brilliantly worked his way past Peter Arbuckle and Bayley McKenna only to be held up before the try line by Diab.

Moments later and Brown showed another side to his ability with a huge hit on Australia’s chief destroyer McKenna, which saw the opposition number 11 eventually leave the court.

England were denied a seventh try at the midway point of the second half when Hawkins was tackled just before he jotted down following Bechara’s driving run.

Tom Halliwell
Tom Halliwell reaches for the ball during the clash with Australia (PA)

Brown exited soon after to a standing ovation before the hosts did add one last score to their tally.

Collins completed his brace after fine work from Joe Coyd before another conversion was added by England’s number one to take his tally for the night up to 16.

Aussie McKenna successfully kicked a penalty in the final seconds to give the visitors the last word but it was England’s night after they showed why many are tipping the 2008 winners to claim a second World Cup during the next two weeks.