|England (26) 38|
|Try: Coyd 2, Brown 2, Collins 2, King Goals: Hawkins, Collins 4|
|Australia (6) 8|
|Try: Karim Goals: Karim, McKenna|
England got their Wheelchair Rugby World Cup campaign off to a perfect start with a 38-8 victory over Australia.
Joe Coyd, Jack Brown and Nathan Collins scored two tries apiece as the hosts set an early scorer at London’s Copper Box Arena.
England, winners in 2008 and twice beaten finalists, are favorites for the title with France, holders of the title.
Lewis King scored on his World Cup debut while Collins added four goals.
The sport, which describes itself as “wheelchair rugby league”, follows many running game principles and features a mix of crisp tackling, brilliant ball handling, solid defending, skill, athleticism and speed.
It also prides itself on its inclusivity with disabled and non-disabled players able to play on the same team at all levels, while male and female players can also line up together.
In front of a game-record crowd of 3,033, Australia started stronger and moments after Diab Karim had a try disallowed, they forced a goal-line abandonment and an error from Rob Hawkins allowed Karim to open the scoring.
England were patient as Australia dictated play and in the 19th minute Coach Tom’s brother Coyd went through.
The try, combined with the introduction of Brown, one of two 2008 World Cup winners still playing for England, gave them a spark and moments later a sweeping move set Coyd up for his second try.
Brown and Seb Bechara then began to exert their influence on the game and with the Wheelaroos also conceding penalties, the momentum was with England.
Although they maintained their dominance with King and Collins adding to the scoreline, there is plenty of room for improvement ahead of their next game against Spain on Sunday.
“I think we blew some cobwebs there. They’re a special team, those boys,” player of the match Brown told BBC Sport.
“Australia showed real class there, but I think the guys in England wanted more.
“After two years without playing for England, I was a bit worried about fitting in with the guys, but Tom trusted me to trust the process and try to live up to the hype.
“We’ve never seen anything like this at a World Cup before. It’s a dream come true and it’s something really special.”
A ‘brutal’ sport finds an enthusiastic audience
Although this is the fourth wheelchair competition it is the first time it has been part of the main event of the Rugby League World Cup and those watching the game on BBC Two have Were impressed with what was presented.
“I played Rugby League for years and took some serious beatings. But it’s brutal,” said Adie Smith on Twitter.
“Turns out wheelchair rugby league is one of the most entertaining sports I’ve ever watched,” said Elanor Banks while Nathan Mattik described it as “a fantastic advertisement for disabled sport”.
“How great that this rugby league is leading the way in inclusiveness, men’s, women’s world cup, physical disability and wheelchair at the same time,” added @brayster72. “Not just a small Nordic sport”
And former Leeds Rhinos star Rob Burrow is another convert.
In the opening game of the eight-team tournament, also in Group A, Theo Gonzalez finished with 25 points as the Spaniards beat Ireland 55-32.
Although Phil Roberts, winner of the World Cup with England in 2008, quickly put the Irish in front, the Spaniards quickly took control of the match, scoring 30 unanswered points in the first half.
Ireland captain Peter Johnston Jr led his side with four tries and four goals, but the Spanish side ran out of comfortable winners.
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