Former England coach Tony Smith believes the national team is improving and a victory over Australia and New Zealand will come.
England suffered close losses against both the Kangaroos and Kiwis in the recent Four Nations, missing out of the tournament’s final. Smith, who coached Great Britain in 2007 and led England at the 2008 World Cup, said England was competitive in the Four Nations and that there’s a “fine line between winning and losing”.
“It’s probably disheartening a little bit because Australia were understrength from what they possibly could have put out, so I think that was a great opportunity,” he said.
“Having said that I thought England played really well in the first half and second half they just couldn’t get their hands on the ball and Australia stepped things up when they put the young halfback on as well. It was a bit of circumstances, but I think they’re improved certainly and if we keep on improving it’ll come.
“It’ll come eventually and we’ll get those titles and when it happens it’ll be a great joy for everybody. It’s being able to sustain it and compete at that level, that’s the whole point of it, there’s no use doing one-offs. It depends how much we keep producing young players and how much emphasis we put on producing young players in this country, which will really determine if we can sustain it for any length of time.”
Warrington utility Stefan Ratchford didn’t appear in the Four Nations but the Wolves coach believes his time will come.
“He’s a class player,” Smith said.
“If he got on he would have done a great job. I think it’s crucial that we keep producing young players and put some focus on that in the next couple of years instead of doing all this re-jigging of competitions, we focus on producing young players and replace the ones that get nabbed by the NRL and rugby union.”
Smith was impressed by the standard of Four Nations and had little sympathy for the Kangaroos, with a crucial try to Sione Mata’utia in the final seconds of the decider ruled out for a forward pass.
“It was a pretty good tournament,” he said.
“I thought the final was fantastic, absolutely fantastic, a really good game of rugby league. I haven’t rated the Australians that played all tournament but I thought they were fantastic in the opening half an hour but New Zealand were real class. It was a good game.
“I think it probably was [forward], it probably crept forward. I don’t feel sorry Australia after what happened with England with the try call. It was one of those tight calls. If it goes against you, you have got to accept it. I thought the Ryan Hall try was a try.”
Follow John Davidson on @johnnyddavidson