Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has admitted he would like to see England coach Wayne Bennett not only put his faith in Castleford’s Luke Gale for the World Cup – but also get the team to “play around him” after identifying him a a pivotal player for the national side’s hopes of success.
McDermott and Gale will collide on Thursday night when Castleford host Leeds at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, but the two know each other well from their time spent together in the capital with London Broncos.
And McDermott told reporters at his pre-match press conference for the West Yorkshire derby that Gale is the missing link England have craved for years.
“You can only learn by playing,” he said. “Half-backs can do as many video sessions and practice as much as they want – they’ll be beneficial to a degree but you’ve got to play.
“You’ve got to miss tackles, drop balls and throw passes into touch before you get a gist of it. Galey has played a great amount of games and he’s never been a timid player. In terms of what it means for England to have a genuine seven who knows when to find touch and can read the game, I think it’ll be good if Wayne Bennett picks him and puts some faith in him.
“It would be my call to get the team to play around him.
“He’s a standout player, and I think one of England’s failures or weaknesses over the last six or seven years is the lack of a genuine six and seven that nail it and work well with each other. He’s an expert at that, an absolute expert at it and he’s flying at the moment. He’ll be really looking forward to playing Leeds and we’re up against it versus a team led by him.”
McDermott crafted the embryonic years of Gale’s professional career after he left Leeds as a youngster, and he insisted he’s not been surprised by the rapid progress the back-to-back Albert Goldthorpe Medal winner has made since.
He said: “I’m not surprised, From when he first came down he had that element of a genuine seven.
“It’s not an arrogance he had but it’s a confidence and an ability to control people around him from the off.
“He was very young when he came to London and he was playing in a team that was on the back foot a lot. I’m not surprised he’s kicked on though; he’s been around the traps and he’s earned his stripes.”