James Roby stepped off the bench after 31 minutes of England’s opening match of the World Cup against Australia in Melbourne today and came close to turning the match on its head.
The St Helens hooker, playing in his third and possibly final World Cup, masterminded England’s brave, if unsuccessful, comeback in a titanic struggle which hung in the balance until the final few minutes.
Head coach Wayne Bennett will have taken many positives from a game in which the 18-4 score line flattered Australia - none more encouraging than Roby’s contribution.
Roby’s club coach Justin Holbrook, said: “I thought he was outstanding and since I came to St Helens I have found him a fantastic guy to work along side.
“He is an unassuming and humble lad and just does his talking on the field.”
Former New Zealand international Robbie Paul added: “He is one of the elder statesmen in the team and can bring so much to a game.
“Nothing seems to faze him and he was mainly responsible for leading England’s fighting second-half display.
Kevin Sinfield, the ex-Leeds Rhinos’ skipper said: “We may have lost the battle tonight and come away a little wounded, but now we must go on and win the war.
“We have got to play to the strengths we show in Super League where we off-load the ball, ask questions and move it side-to-side.
“The NRL game is very different. We need to play to our strengths - and that second-half display is exactly where we need to be. If we try to beat Australia set-to-set in an arm wrestle game we will lose.”