Oh dear! Another year goes by, another international failure. Again we played well, again we came close.
We were far better competing in the Southern Hemisphere than in 1996, 1999, 2008 and 2010.
But in the final analysis we couldn’t score when it really mattered. Yet when the Kiwis and the Aussies need an important try against us, they tend to find it.
It’s hard to be too critical of the players. England’s halves looked better than many previous combinations, whilst Daryl Clark and Sean O’Loughlin in the crucial hooker and loose forward positions were very good.
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Our props continue to be exceptional and our outside backs are light years ahead of the 2008 equivalents, who were awful in that World Cup.
Even so, I still felt something was missing. And I really take no pleasure from this, but you have to conclude that with another coach things would perhaps be different.
Steve McNamara has done some good things in this job since 2010, and I applaud him wholeheartedly for unleashing the superb Dan Sarginson when most coaches would have stuck with the perfectly good Michael Shenton.
But McNamara strikes you as a coach who doesn’t learn from his mistakes. He has a bad habit of withdrawing his best players when it simply isn’t needed, just because the general consensus dictates that it is something that should be done.
In 2007 his Bradford team infamously imploded in the play-offs against Wigan when three or four of his best players were sitting on the bench looking bemused.
Last year he surrendered the initiative against the Kangaroos at the Millennium Stadium by unnecessarily hooking big names, and he was at it again on Saturday morning.
We have the best front row in the world at the moment, and they all played very well against the Kiwis. So why bring them all off?
The answer is that it is apparently the done thing in today’s game. But that doesn’t make it right.
Bringing on Brett Ferres at dummy-half was a calamitous mistake, and although the replacement props were good – especially the impressive Chris Hill – I don’t see the sense in substituting the two best props in the world. Especially not at similar times.
And it was no coincidence that when the starting frontrowers came back on in around the 55th minute, we scored.
Likewise, I don’t believe that O’Loughlin got enough minutes against the Aussies and the Kiwis. If he wasn’t totally fit then he shouldn’t have toured, but he played very well when he was on the pitch, so I suspect his withdrawal was also tactical and not on fitness grounds.
The only reasonable conclusion to make is that he should have been out there longer, and we missed him when he was on the sidelines.
We don’t have the depth to be limiting the minutes of our best forwards like this.
After four years in the helm, and after just one win in nine attempts against Australia and New Zealand, I think it’s time for McNamara to stand aside for the reasons stated above and also for the fact that it’s not ideal that he’s based in Australia, and not even as a head coach.
I would love to see the job go to Daryl Powell, who I think has all the attributes needed for the job.
His ability to coach a team of underdogs and have them overachieving was demonstrated beautifully at Castleford this year, and he would face a similar challenge with England.
We also need to knock the idea of full-time international coaching on the head. It’s another nice theory that doesn’t work in reality.
I’d be more than happy for Daryl to coach Cas again next season and then to lead England into their best-of-three series against New Zealand in a year’s time.
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And he’d have a lot to work with. In Sarginson and Kallum Watkins we have our best centre pairing since Gary Connolly and Paul Newlove. And we have other world-class backs in Sam Tomkins and Ryan Hall.
I really do think that we should be confident of beating the Kiwis in a year’s time and I also believe that we can win the 2017 World Cup.
Wholesale changes to the team aren’t needed, but a new coach with new ideas could be the answer.