Rugby League World Cup: Joe Coyd hails ‘remarkable’ response as England’s wheelchair stars take center stage | Rugby League News


Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

England wheelchair player Joe Coyd reflects on the response to the opening win over Australia on Thursday night and looks ahead to the host nation’s next match at the World Cup; England face Spain at London’s Copper Box Arena on Sunday (12pm)

Last Updated: 04/11/22 6:22pm

Joe Coyd and his England team-mates greet the fans after the win over Australia

Joe Coyd expected England’s first game of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup to resonate beyond the sport’s usual audience, yet even he was surprised by just how far the 38-8 win over Australia did that.

The England squad found themselves on the back of the tournament-opening victory over the Wheelaroos, watched by a record crowd for a wheelchair match of 3,033 at the Copper Box Arena in London, as they turned on their phones and saw social media lighting up and a string of congratulatory messages.

Along with the delight of getting a win over one of their old rivals, Coyd was just glad to see so many newcomers to the sport becoming aware of what he and his team-mates have known for a long time about it being an all-action , brutal, and yet highly skilful spectacle.

“It’s been remarkable,” Coyd, who plays his club rugby for London Roosters in the Wheelchair Super League, told Sky Sports. “I thought there would be a bit of a buzz, but not quite like what it has been.

“I heard from people I hadn’t spoken to in years saying they’d stumbled across me on TV and were amazed by what they had seen. I’m glad we put on a good spectacle and people are starting to see what we as players have known for a long time.

“We’re blessed to be part of this. Any World Cup is special, but the way this World Cup has been done with us, the men and the women is the way to do it, and has set a tone not just for rugby league but for all world tournaments.”

Along with the host nation kicking off their campaign in style, Thursday’s opening night in London saw Spain make a name for themselves too by defeating Ireland 55-32 in the other Group A match as they bid to repeat their knock-out stages appearance from the 2017 World Cup.

I heard from people I hadn’t spoken to in years saying they’d stumbled across me on TV and were amazed by what they had seen. I’m glad we put on a good spectacle and people are starting to see what we as players have known for a long time.

England wheelchair RL player Joe Coyd

Then on Friday, reigning champions France showed their ability too with a 154-6 win over Wales followed by tournament debutants USA overcoming Scotland 62-41 in the Group B double-header in Sheffield.

Coyd is delighted to see some of the lesser-recognized rugby league-playing nations like the Americans and Spanish coming to the fore in the wheelchair tournament, particularly in a year where other countries have done so in the men’s and women’s events which are being held at the same time.

“That’s the magic of the World Cup, isn’t it?” Coyd said. “Look at the men’s with Jamaica; me and my brother were watching them against New Zealand when Ben Jones-Bishop scored that try and it was like scoring a try in a World Cup final to win it – they were over the moon.

“Brazil, we watched them against the women and although England came out on top, we saw in the changing room afterwards they were all singing and dancing and having the best time. Spain were in the last wheelchair World Cup and they are a bit of an unknown and are very good in their chairs on the rugby side, but the USA in their first game seemed to be smashing it.

Spain are England's next opponents, having defeated Ireland in their first match of the World Cup

Spain are England’s next opponents, having defeated Ireland in their first match of the World Cup

“That is the beauty of the World Cup and I think rugby league in general. It has always been a sport where it doesn’t matter what you do, who you are or what you look like, we want you in our sport. It really is a sport for everyone, which is highlighted by how the World Cup has been done this year.”

Coyd and his England team-mates who played against the Australians were nursing a few bumps and bruises on Friday morning after a physical contest, although there is little time to rest as they take on Spain in their second group match in London on Sunday (kick -off 12pm).

A swimming session at the London Aquatic Centre, another former Olympic Games venue, helped with their preparations though and Coyd’s older brother Tom, the England head coach, has already identified areas to improve on the pitch as well in the bid to achieve their ultimate aim of dethroning champions France.

“We knew they’d come out fighting and they did,” Joe said of the win over Australia. “We’ve got some pretty sore bodies and a couple of bruises in the team – and that’s what we wanted as well.

“We wanted to come into the tournament and be tested straight from the off and see where we’re at, and they gave us that. We were really happy with our defense, but our attack has got a little work to do, and we ‘ve got some games and some time to get that right.

“We’re still very confident in what we can achieve in this tournament, it’s just about getting the timing right and peaking towards the knock-out stages.

“Spain looked really threatening at some points and really took it to Ireland. We’ll have to be ready to go from minute one, building on what we achieved against Australia.”





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