Smith - Pressure on France
Tony Smith believes France must put in an improved performance against England on Saturday or face losing the fixture.
Last Updated: 11/06/10 2:20pm
Former England coach Tony Smith believes France must put in an improved performance against England on Saturday or face losing the fixture.
The French take on England at Leigh Sports Village in a game being shown live on Sky Sports HD1 and Sky Sports 1 at 5.15pm.
Bobbie Goulding's side were thrashed 64-12 in Paris a year ago and Smith, who stood down from his post after November's Four Nations final, believes the fixture will be scrapped if the French suffer another humiliating defeat.
He said: "I am worried about this game. I know it's good for England to get together and play a match, I'm not sure it's the right opponents.
"Only time will tell but, if it happened to be like last year's result - and it very well could be - I think it's the end of it.
"There's a lot of pressure on the French to produce a good performance because, otherwise, I don't know how much good it's doing England to play an opponent like that mid-year and I don't know how much good it's doing the French to get a shellacking like that."
In the wake of last year's 12-try rout, Smith suggested a match against an overseas XIII drawn from Super League-based Australians and New Zealanders would provide a more worthwhile mid-season test for England.
Although the French, who rely heavily on Catalans players, showed signs of improvement in the Four Nations series, they still conceded 138 points in their three matches.
Goulding's side will play for a place in the 2011 Four Nations when they host the European Cup later this year and Smith believes playing matches against Ireland, Scotland and Wales will do more good for the French than being regularly thrashed by England.
"They came within 22 points of us in the Four Nations and they were crowing about how that was a good result for them," he said.
"If that's the best they can hope for, I think there would be benefits from playing other opponents. Hopefully, for their sake they can win the European Cup.
"It would do them some good to get some confidence in that sort of arena and that sort of tournament.
"But, if it happens to be a blow-out this weekend, I don't think it's doing either side too much good and we probably need to look at those other alternatives that have been bandied around for the last few years."
Goulding is again forced to field a depleted team for the game, while England also have their share of injuries, with three of the four half-backs used by Smith in the Four Nations sidelined.
But new head coach Steve McNamara has had the luxury of being able to fly three of his players from Australia for the match.
While this has prompted criticism from Hull KR's Australian forward Clint Newton, who argues the money would be better spent on junior development, Smith has sprung to the defence of his successor.
"I think the criticism is unfair, particularly with it being Steve's first match in charge," said Smith, who chose not to bring Gareth Ellis back from Sydney for last year's match.
"I understand where Steve is coming from in trying to keep a group together, a group he won't have much chance to work with before the Four Nations.
"I think it's great that the players were willing and wanting to come and play for their country and it's great that the RFL have supported them on that.
"I know there is talk that maybe the money would be better spent on junior development or whatever but there is far more money sent abroad through player and coach payments.
"The cost of three return flights from Australia is a drop in the ocean compared to that. I know there's a lot of mortgages being paid off in Australia.
"Instead of penny-pinching here and there, if clubs really want to put more money into the development of junior players, reducing the number and size of contracts that we pay to overseas players and coaches - including myself originally - would make a much more significant impact."