Opinion: Steve McNamara must go

It’s time for the RFL to make a tough decision and replace Steve McNamara as England head coach.

Missing the 2014 Four Nations final comes on the back of missing out on the World Cup final last year. That’s two third-place finishings in a year.

It’s just not good enough.

The RFL and Ralph Rimmer can dress it up all they like, and say the gap between Australia, New Zealand and England is closing. They may be the case, and that is definitely arguable, but that is down to more English players joining the NRL, not because of McNamara’s influence.

Under the 43-year old’s coaching England has a 52.6% win rate. In that period since 2010 they have drawn with the New Zealand Maori side, lost five from five against Australia, lost three from four against New Zealand and lost two out of four matches against the Exiles.

Then there was the embarrassing 15-14 defeat to Italy on the eve of the World Cup.

Under McNamara England has made some strange selection decisions, such as the ignoring of Danny Brough, his persistence with Rangi Chase and the overlooking of Gareth Widdop for most of the 2013 World Cup.

The same has happened with this year’s Four Nations – Joel Tomkins was picked despite a handful of games for Wigan this season, after returning from rugby union, while an in-form Elliot Whitehead was not used until the final game and Josh Hodgson was left out against the Kiwis. Brett Ferres was used unsuccessfuly at dummy half. Mike Cooper did not get a look-in despite an outstanding debut season in the NRL.

Under McNamara off-field discipline has been a problem in the England camp. Apart from Hodgson’s door antics on the weekend, England was plagued by issues at the World Cup.

Gareth Hock and Zac Hardaker were kicked out of the squad while other players were reprimanded for drinking. McNamara doesn’t seem able to get his charges under control.

In the Four Nations Australia was there for the taking, missing over 20 team first-team players. New Zealand was also missing key players like Sonny Bill Williams, Kevin Locke, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Yes, England was without Sam Burgess, Ben Westwood and James Roby, but they were missing far less cattle than the talent that their two main rivals had to contend without.

They struggled against Samoa and just snuck home, failed to finish off the Kangaroos in the second half and again could not close out the match against the Kiwis. It was déjà vu, just like the Wembley World Cup semi-final.

McNamara’s coaching record in Super League is not outstanding – 90 matches with Bradford for a 47.8% win rate.

In 2007 the Bulls finished third and were eliminated in the first week of the play-offs, in 2008 they finished fifth and were eliminated in the first week of the play-offs, in 2009 they finished ninth and missed the play-offs and in 2010 they missed 10th and also missed the play-offs.

In July of 2010 McNamara’s contract was mutually terminated after a run of eight Bradford defeats in a row.

The RFL’s persistence with McNamara in the England job is puzzling.

There are better and more talented English coaches out there, like Shaun Wane, Brian McDermott and Daryl Powell. There are better and more
talented coaches overseas, like Daniel Anderson, Brian Smith and even Craig Bellamy, who plans to quit his NRL post with the Melbourne Storm in 2016.

For the sake of the England national team, Steve McNamara needs to depart.