First published in League Express, Monday 29th July 2013
This week I’ll look at the second-row options available to the England coach Steve McNamara for the World Cup.
Again, I’ve placed them in the order of how I rate them and I’ve only included players who I think would be good enough to play at the highest level.
As you’ll see, I’ve only got four names. I don’t think we’re quite as well off in this area as many people would like to think.
Two names that are missing are Warrington’s Ben Currie and Widnes’s Gareth Hock.
I think Currie a tremendous player, but he has made himself available for Ireland. Had he not done so, I think he would be very much in the frame for a spot in the squad.
As for Hock, last year I thought he was the best in the business. But he’s had such an up-and-down year that I now think England would be better off overlooking him. The discipline problems and the unreliability that have always dogged him are still very much there.
I don’t think his form and his focus warrant him getting into the squad.
But I’m still excited at the options we do have although fingers crossed none of them get injured!
SAM BURGESS – Sam is by far the best forward in the world. The Aussies really respect him, which is the hallmark of a great British player.
Unless you have that I’m not sure you can count yourself as a true great. He is fearless and a devastating player running out wide. Justin Hodges and Greg Inglis will have their work cut out handling this guy if he’s used like that. If we had a pack of forwards all like Sam, then the Aussies and Kiwis wouldn’t want to turn up! He’s a genuine world star and I love watching him play.
LIAM FARRELL – Liam has certainly proved that he can handle the pressure and physicality of top-level rugby week in, week out. I hope he’s played out wide in an attacking sense, where he can hit the gaps. He’s got a decent passing game too for the threequarters who play outside him. He’s come on in leaps and bounds this season and has to be a shoo-in to start for England. His early-season form was superb. He may have dropped off a bit, but I’m confident he’ll pick that back up for the games that matter.
GARETH ELLIS – Gareth is a proven, experienced Rugby League player and I just feel that he will be needed in the World Cup. He’s not quite as dynamic as he has been in the past, but for a defensive player who can still come up with some good plays with the ball, he will bring a lot.
I’ve had some doubts over him in the last year or two, but he still deserves to be in there. Wests have missed him badly and Hull are a much better side when he’s fit, although I’m not sure they are using him in the best possible way.
BEN WESTWOOD – He’s tried and tested at this level and I think he’s always done a decent job. What you get is what you see – he’s a no- nonsense player but he can create a bit too. He doesn’t let anyone down and, come the World Cup, he will be in the squad, although I don’t think he’ll start. He’ll probably be on the bench. His discipline has to be questioned sometimes, but overall the positives by far outweigh that.