Holbrook backs Percival to be better than ever following England disappointment

Justin Holbrook believes Mark Percival could have been the difference for England in their World Cup final defeat to Australia.

The Saints centre was used just once during the World Cup as Wayne Bennett and his coaching staff picked makeshift centre John Bateman in the role instead.

England managed to score just one try in their two matches against Mal Meninga’s men, who in total conceded just 16 points throughout the entire campaign.

Holbrook was a keen spectator throughout the competition as he worked as a pundit for the BBC, and he told TotalRL that his star centre could have had a big impact if given an opportunity.

“I felt a little bit sorry for John Bateman being in the centre position but that’s the way Wayne Bennett wanted to run,” Holbrook said.

“I thought the big factor, even in the final, is that you’ve got to score tries to beat Australia and I felt having Bateman in the centre was a safety first option rather than having what Percy could produce.

“But Wayne was the coach and the big thing England struggled with was errors, so I think he wanted to simplify that and have a solid team rather than a more expansive way of playing. Having Percy there would have definitely had more to offer in attack. But that’s just my opinion. I think he could have really troubled Australia.”

Nevertheless, Holbrook believes the 23-year-old will return to Saints as a better player with the experience of a World Cup under his belt.

“Any time you get to be in camp with the elite improves you,” he said.

“I had a chat with him the other day once he got back. Of course, he’d have liked to have played more games, but I think the experience of just being in that environment with different coaches and players can help you as a player. Without doubt he’d have liked more games, but he’ll be a lot better for being in camp by the next Super League season.”

Buy League Express on Monday for a further piece with Justin Holbrook ahead of the 2018 campaign.