NRL coach tells James Graham his opinion on Rugby Union in England after leaving post

Rugby league is so often compared to rugby union by those outside the sport who make sweeping statements without any prior knowledge, however a current NRL coach has spoken of his shock about the size of rugby union in England.

Manly Sea Eagles recently appointed Anthony Seibold as their head coach after a PR disaster regarding the Pride jersey and losing seven games on the spin to finish outside the playoffs.

Seibold comes from a rugby league background and has coached for a long time in the NRL but his most recent job saw him switch codes and work under recently sacked Eddie Jones as England rugby union’s defensive coach, something which gave him insight into how the 15-man code compares in England.

Speaking to James Graham on Graham’s podcast, The Bye Round, Seibold was asked about the luxuries union as a sport is afforded in terms of facilities and to try to explain to Graham’s mainly Australian based audience what union in Europe was like.

“You don’t want for anything, it’s a very professional set up. It’s elite level sport at the very very highest level and was a fantastic experience,” Seibold explained. “Very, very well resourced.

“It’s incredible, I’ve got to say I didn’t realise how big rugby (union) was in England, I had an inkling from as a player and when I first started coaching, but every game at Twickenham had 82,000 so it’s like an origin game every single test match that’s probably the closest way I can describe.

“You come into the ground and pull the bus up and there’s just thousands and thousands of people … it was an event every week, it was like Origin.”

Comparing that 82,000 weekly to the 2022 Challenge Cup final attendance of 51,628 and the pre-pandemic 2019 final’s 62,717 does confirm Seibold’s point but also goes hand-in-hand with his comments about the financing of the game.

Ultimately though he is back in rugby league and presumably here to stay.

“It’s a fantastic game (union) but rugby league is a fantastic game and rugby league is the game that I grew up loving so that’s why I came back.”

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