THE story goes that when Paul Barriere was informed plans were afoot to name the trophy for Rugby League World Cup after him, he refused such an honour.
So one can only wonder what the former Federation Francais de Rugby XIII president, who died in 2008 aged 88, would have made about having his name attached to the shield presented to the winners of last Saturday’s clash between England and France.
Given how Barriere – a former rugby union player no less – helped re-establish the 13-man game in France following the Vichy government’s attempts to wipe it out in World War II and was the driving force behind what these days goes by the name of the Rugby League International Federation, it is perhaps only fitting his contribution to the sport is honoured in some way.
Of course, much has changed in French rugby league since Barriere oversaw the last golden era across the Channel in the 1950s when Chanticleers and their flamboyant chain-smoking full-back Puig Aubert – arguably the greatest French rugby league player of all time – enthralled crowds in Britain and Australia.
Should they go on to win this year’s European Championship, one doubts there will be 150,000 fans cheering them on in a parade as there were in Marseille when Les Chanticleers returned from their successful 1951 tour of Australia.
Club-wise, at least, there are positive signs. Super League XXI marks ten years of Catalans Dragons being involved in the competition, as well as 2016 seeing Toulouse Olympique taking up a place in Kingston Press League One.
But the national team have yet to return to the heights of 60 years ago. Indeed, their 25-18 victory at Headingley in 1990 remains their last triumph against Great Britain or England.
And Saturday’s 84-4 defeat at Leigh Sports Village – a record loss for France – shows little sign that may change any time soon.
The signs were ominous from the start when England ran in three early tries, although winger Olivier Arnaud’s try gave a brief moment for the visitors to savour.
Otherwise, France found themselves out-matched, out-gunned and out-muscled.
While the likes of Morgan Escare, Benjamin Julliene, Kevin Larroyer and Gadwin Springer all ply their trade in Super League, most of the squad are playing in the lower divisions or the domestic Elite One Championship.
So up against team of full-time players duking it out each week in Super League or – in the case of rampaging England prop James Graham – the NRL, there was always going to be a disparity.
Especially in the physicality department, where it was clear France were struggling after some stoic defence kept England at bay for a large part of the first half following their opening scores.
Such is the nature of rugby league though, with no time to rest and nowhere to hide when faced with wave after wave of attack.
As for England, Steve McNamara’s men will face a much tougher test when the series against New Zealand kicks off in Hull this Sunday.
Debutants John Bateman, Joe Burgess, George Williams and Mike Cooper – the latter coming off the interchange bench – did their cases for a place in the matchday squad no harm at all.
Now to see how they stack up against the number one-ranked side in the world.
IF a game happens and no-one sees it, then does it really take place?
True, a crowd of over 8,000 were at Leigh Sports Village for England’s 15-try romp over France.
But The Independent’s Matt Butler and Aaron Bower of The Guardian were among those expressing their consternation at how the RFL had failed to secure any TV or radio coverage for the match.
Even Leeds Rhino’s friendly with New Zealand less than 24 hours earlier was screened by Premier Sports, although that had the added attraction of Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai bringing the curtain down on their careers with the Rhinos.
The fact all three of England’s Test matches with the Kiwis will be free-to-air on the BBC can only be good for growing awareness of the rugby league – particularly with the 15-man code’s World Cup soon coming to an end.
One suspects though the success of the whole series will be judged – rightly or wrongly – by the wider media on how many paying punters attend the second Test at London’s Olympic Stadium.