Steve McNamara has named a squad he believes can win the World Cup, yet he continues to draw criticism from fans.
Danny Brough’s Man of Steel award was greeted with a massive cheer by the Huddersfield table at this week’s gala dinner in Manchester, and further highlighted the glaring omission from England’s squad of Super League’s best halfback. But it is pointless now to moan about it, and to criticise McNamara’s stance. The pair had words, and Brough chose to play for Scotland, thus making himself unavailable.
It really is as simple as that, so chastising the head coach for it heading into this major tournament is fanning the flames of a fire that we should really now just extinguish.
McNamara’s squad boasts one of the most powerful packs I can remember in an England squad, and fans must now try and put their own club grievances about non-selected or selected players behind them and focus on the communal goal: to topple Australia and New Zealand and win the competition.
Could that happen? Absolutely. Will it? Absolutely no idea. Of course England can win the World Cup, indeed Robbie Hunter-Paul told me last week he sees defending champions New Zealand as third favourites behind the Aussies and England. Bit of bravado and reverse psychology there from Robbie perhaps, but the issue isn’t England talent. That is there in abundance. They have to believe they can win it, and I’m sure the presence of our Australian-based players, off the back of storming NRL seasons, will help there.
As for Man of Steel, Brough was 100 per cent the right winner. In any other season Jamie Peacock might have won it, but Brough has been brilliant from start to finish for a side that finished top of the table.
I understand Tom Briscoe is set to sign for Leeds this week and the England winger will be a fabulous acquisition for the Rhinos. Hull FC had real potency in Briscoe and Young Player of the Year Ben Crooks this season – two terrific finishers, and the prospect of Briscoe and Ryan Hall in the same side is exciting.
Warrington and Wigan go toe to toe for Grand Final glory at Old Trafford this week and I’m already buzzing at the prospect. The road signs on my 5am drive into the BBC studios this week are already showing “Rugby Match Sat 5th October. Starts 1800. Expect Delays.” These road signs normally just warn about Manchester United home games. It is silly little things like this that remind me how big a deal it is for the sport and all involved on Saturday. I’ve taken a bit of flak for my pre-playoff prediction that Wigan can’t win it. Both Shaun Wane and Iestyn Harris have been reminding me about how early I wrote them off. This could well prove my “you don’t win anything with kids” (c) Alan Hansen moment, but I’m not wrong yet! If they do clinch the double it will be a stunning achievement and I’ll be ready with a huge plate of Wigan humble pie.