Missed opportunity for England
Martyn Sadler, the editor of Rugby League Express, regrets that England won’t have a mid-season international game in 2014. This is a modified version of an article that appeared in his Talking Rugby League column on Monday.
The England squad gathered in Loughborough this week for a mid-season get-together as part of their preparations for this year’s Four Nations tournament to be held in Australia and New Zealand in October and November.
Or at least some of the England squad gathered at Loughborough.
The nine Wigan players who are in the squad didn’t go, because they were playing Widnes on Wednesday, and some other players, like St Helens’ Jonny Lomax, also didn’t attend because they had suffered injuries the previous weekend.
If seems odd that England coach Steve McNamara would hold a training session when some of his players couldn’t turn up.
Given that the date of Wigan’s game with Widnes had been arranged for quite some time, we might have thought that a better date could have been found for the training days at Loughborough. But it may be that Steve was forced to be inflexible.
He is an assistant coach at Sydney Roosters, and his club doesn’t have a game this weekend. So it gave him the requisite amount of time off to fly to England.
And we have to realise that Steve Mac is now an employee of the Roosters, and they have first call on his services.
That’s why it’s not a good idea to have a part-time coach whose full-time job is in Australia.
Is that why there is no mid-season game for England this year, because Steve can’t fit a game into his schedule?
The RFL said that the game against the Exiles had run its course.
But I’m not too sure about that.
And there are plenty of other alternatives, including a game against a combined team selected from players who qualify for Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
When I suggested that idea some time ago, several players from those nations thought it was a great idea.
And it would be even greater if this year it was a Great Britain team going down under to play in the Four Nations.
In that case a game between England and the Celtic Nations would be a genuine contest, with places at stake for Great Britain for the Four Nations.
It now looks highly unlikely that we will have a Great Britain tour to Australia in 2015, and I would therefore suggest to the RFL that when the Four Nations is held in the southern hemisphere we should have Great Britain competing, rather than England.
That would then give the players from all the Home Nations a tremendous incentive to compete for a place in the squad to go down under.
Watching the Giants last Thursday earning that thrilling victory over Leeds, it would be easy to imagine players like Danny Brough (Scotland), Joe Wardle (Scotland), Scott Grix (Ireland) and Craig Kopczak (Wales) lining up against their English equivalents in a mid-season game with lots at stake.
With the Aussies in the middle of their State of Origin series it seems to me to be a great shame that we can’t offer our players something similar in this country.
I’m sure that a match between England and the three nations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales would have been a big draw, with players battling for a place in a Great Britain squad to play in the Four Nations.
It would certainly have been better than nothing at all.
England will now go into their opening game of the Four Nations against Samoa in October with absolutely no game preparation. That is too big a risk.
If you would like your say on an England mid-season game, cast your vote in our readers’ poll on www.totalrl.com.
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