England head coach Steve McNamara believes England continue to close the gap on rivals Australia and New Zealand following the Four Nations, and says everyone must remain positive if that gap will continue to close in the coming years.
Two narrow defeats against the Kangaroos and the Kiwis put paid to any chance of England reaching the Four Nations final, with League Express columnist Garry Schofield calling for McNamara to be replaced following the tournament.
However, the England boss believes England are stronger now than they have been for several years and, speaking exclusively with the Yorkshire Post, says he is totally confident those narrow losses will soon turn into wins against the two dominant forces of international Rugby League.
“We never quite got across the line and it was agonising, just like in the World Cup. But people keep talking about closing the gap and I think it has been to a large extent. We’ve gone from going into games hoping we can win and getting beaten in the last 20 minutes to now taking these games really right down to the wire,” he said.
“We’ve certainly proven over the last four times we’ve played – twice against New Zealand and Australia – that those games are now down to such a fine margin, such very small percentages.
“Unfortunately we’ve not been on the right side of those yet, but we’ve got to show patience, gain more experience and those close losses will turn into victories.”
McNamara also believes that the efforts his team displayed against Australia and New Zealand were “outstanding”, and admits he believed England were the better side in all three games they played during the Four Nations.
“To win on southern hemisphere soil is really difficult. But for the team to put in back-to-back, outstanding performances inside six days, especially considering flights between Australia and New Zealand, is a great feat.
“On reflection, I think we were the better team in all of those games having shown great tenacity to beat Samoa in our first when we didn’t play to our best.
“We have to stay strong and positive and not let anything negative come blow us off course.”