Scotland Rugby League will return to the Zebra Claims Stadium on Friday night, a place head coach Steve McCormack dubs their ‘second home’.
The Bravehearts have appeared at Workington Town’s home ground three times in recent years, helping grow the presence of Scotland Rugby League in Cumbria following two hugely successful games there at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup and a comfortable win over Wales in the 2014 European Championship that helped secure their place in this Four Nations tournament.
Friday night’s clash against New Zealand, the No. 1 ranked team in the world, will be the toughest challenge they have yet faced at Derwent Park.
“It is kind of like a second home for us in a way,” McCormack said.
“There are a lot of proud Englishmen in West Cumbria so they will want the Kiwis to get beat and I think our history in that area has been good for both parties.
“We have all really bought into the Cumbrian spirit, the towns and the community. And on the flipside they have been really good to us as well, so I am sure there will be a lot of Englishmen supporting us Scots on Friday night.”
The weather forecast is for cold rain and poor conditions, but the coach claims his team, who led England until just before half-time last weekend, will not be relying on any outside help.
“The weather is perfect no matter what it is!” said McCormack, who led Workington’s deadly rivals Whitehaven to the second tier Grand Final 12 years ago.
“We are not bothered what the weather is like. We will be ready whatever the conditions are, whatever ground we play at and whoever we play. It doesn’t really come much tougher than the Kiwis but we will be ready for it as always.”
The weather has caused a change in arrangements with Scotland having to stay down in Preston for a few hours longer on Thursday so they can have their final training session there while the Derwent Park pitch is protected from the rain. With only standing tickets remaining on the open terraces, a large crowd is expected.
“I think it will be a fantastic atmosphere,” said McCormack, who gave a Four Nations debut to Workington hooker Callum Phillips against England.
“The Cumbrian people will pack that ground out because they will want to see Scotland do well, no doubt.
“New Zealand are a very talented side all over the field. I thought they were particularly good in the second-half against Australia and some of their key players really stood up, so we have had a look at them in some detail but we have been focusing on making sure we are prepared more than anything.
“Shaun Johnson is a world class player. We faced Cooper Cronk in the first week, George Williams last week and we face Shaun Johnson this week, which is what the Four Nations is all about, but we have got some really talented players ourselves.
“I thought Danny Brough has been outstanding, Danny Addy fills into the stand-off role easily and Lachlan Coote has shown glimpses of why he is talked about as being world class star. It should be a really entertaining game and one that myself and the rest of the team here are buzzing.”
Warrington star Matty Russell, who scored a first half-try that was adjudged the League Express Try of the Week to put Scotland 8-0 up on Saturday, is also looking forward to returning to the scene of his 2013 breakthrough.
“It will be good to play at Workington again,” said the Irvine-born winger.
“We have got a good fanbase there. We enjoy it there – it’s a good place and they are a tight community, all the people get involved. We had some good craic there in the World Cup. When we are walking around the streets they enjoy us being round there. It’s a good place to be and the crowd got really behind us in the World Cup, so we are looking forward to it.”