RFL Chief Operating Officer Ralph Rimmer believes England now stand shoulder to shoulder with Australia and New Zealand following a hugely impressive series of performances during the 2014 Four Nations.
England narrowly missed out on reaching the final in Wellington next weekend despite three outstanding displays by a young squad that will form the spine of the national team for the next five to 10 years.
“Whilst it’s always disappointing not to reach the final of any competition, the overriding sensations for England from the Four Nations are frustration at having gone so close, and immense pride at what was almost achieved,” said Rimmer.
“England were the better team against Australia in Melbourne and were unlucky not to get the win against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.
“The 2014 Four Nations has been another important stepping stone on England’s journey towards international success and the nature of the progress they have made should fill everyone with optimism.
“England have come a long way since the disappointment of the World Cup in 2008, when they simply weren’t competitive, and they now stand at the dawn of what I am sure will be an exciting era.
“Many of the most influential players who have been involved in England’s journey over the last five years were missing this autumn following the retirement of Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield, injuries to the likes of James Roby and the loss of the world’s best player, Sam Burgess.
“Those absences created opportunities which a new generation of players grabbed with both hands with Super League Man of Steel Daryl Clark, Dan Sarginson, Kallum Watkins and the Burgess twins, Tom and George all looking world class.
“Those young men, and indeed all the players involved in the England squad, coach Steve McNamara and his staff should feel very proud of where the national team is right now, as should the clubs who are producing such fantastic talent.
“The sport has made a significant investment in its player development pathways in recent years and England’s performance in the last few weeks offers compelling evidence of the outstanding work that is going on at clubs throughout the game.
“I have no doubts that that continued investment, together with the changes to the league structure that are designed to produce more meaningful fixtures packed full of intensity, will enable England to realise their ambitions.”
England will next be involved in international action in the autumn of 2015 when New Zealand visit the UK to play three matches. Details of venues, dates and ticket prices will be announced before the end of this year.