To celebrate the upcoming release of the latest Rugby League World, here’s a taster of what you can expect from the northern hemisphere’s best-selling Rugby League magazine.
The following is a column from Catalans half-back Todd Carney, who discusses the choices ahead of Steve McNamara with the autumn test series with New Zealand on the horizon.
Steve McNamara will have some tough choices ahead of England’s series against the Kiwis.
England proved in the Four Nations last year that they are more than capable of challenging Australia and New Zealand. I think with a few tweaks, they can certainly match if not beat the top sides in the world.
They play New Zealand at the end of the year and I’m certain that it will be a top series. With New Zealand now currently sitting as the number one team in the world, they are there to be shot at and the English certainly have the bullets to fire.
I’ve watched the Super League for a number of years now and it continues to improve. You only have to look at the players that go from England to Australia to play; it’s rare that they look out of place. I genuinely think England will do well. At the World Cup it took a moment of brilliance to knock them out in the semi-finals.
Having said that, it is tough when the majority of the New Zealand side play in the NRL; it is the best competition in the world. The players thrive on that. To play at that level consistently is a huge help to Australia, New Zealand and now Samoa and Papua New Guinea have a host of players playing in the NRL that have improved their international sides enormously.
Steve McNamara will have a selection headache when he puts his team together to take on the Kiwis.
At full-back, Sam Tomkins has been there and done it all before so is probably in the box seat. Sam is back in the NZ Warriors side and is playing well at the moment but he will have to be on top of his game to keep Zak Hardaker, probably the best full-back in Super League out of that position.
Players such as Tom Briscoe, Joe Burgess, Josh Charnley, Ryan Hall and Tom Lineham will all fight it out for two spots on the wing, but you only have to look at the finishing recently of Gene Ormsby and Kevin Penny at Warrington to see there is a huge talent pool of wingers in Super League. Tom Lineham is playing some great rugby at the moment, he’s scoring some great tries and if you’re picking on form, he’s surely got to be selected.
In the centres, Kallum Watkins and Dan Sarginson will perhaps look to keep their spots, but they will also be under pressure. Leroy Cudjoe at Huddersfield, Jordan Turner at St Helens and Michael Shenton at Castleford all have strong cases.
The halves will give the coach another problem. Obviously you have Gareth Widdop playing for St George-Illawarra and he’s probably going to play six. He came through the Melbourne structure and did really well there. When he left, many questioned how he would go at St George outside of the big three (Slater, Cronk and Smith) and the Bellamy factor but he’s proved he’s a class player. He can play a range of positions; full-back, stand-off and scrum-half and he’s doing a good job for the Dragons.
Danny McGuire has been pushing his case in recent weeks to possibly partner Widdop. My half-back partner for next season, Richie Myler produced a superb piece of magic a few weeks ago against Wigan and also has a good chance of making the side. However, Matty Smith will probably get the nod; he offers calmness and his game management is second to none.
It’s such a shame that players like Danny Brough and Kevin Sinfield won’t be available for England. I love watching those guys play.
Up front, the big boys who play in the NRL will pick themselves; James Graham, the Burgess brothers and Mike Cooper have all been playing really well. The St Helens pair Alex Walmsley and Kyle Amor will also be in with a chance and Adam Cuthbertson might get a place, as he qualifies through his family heritage. He has been playing remarkably well this season for Leeds.
England have a wealth of back-rowers to pick from, which makes Gareth Ellis being ruled out a little easier to swallow. Liam Farrell and Joe Wardle have been outstanding for their clubs this season, while Sean O’Loughlin is an inspirational player for Wigan.
Elliott Whitehead has been playing extremely well for us. I know Steve McNamara rates him highly and will be keeping tabs on him when he moves to Canberra at the end of the season. Joe Westerman is another player that really excites me at Hull FC.
James Roby is the obvious choice at hooker, but he will face competition from Michael McIllorum and Daryl Clark. While he might not get called up this time around, the young hooker at Warrington, Brad Dwyer looks a good prospect and if he continues his development, he could be one for the future.
My team for England would be: S. Tomkins, Tom Lineham, Kallum Watkins, Dan Sarginson, Ryan Hall, Gareth Widdop, Matty Smith, George Burgess, James Roby, James Graham, Elliott Whitehead, Joe Westerman, Sean O’Loughlin.
The next weekend of Rugby League World is out on Friday, September 25th.