LUKE GALE is utterly adamant that Danny Brough is the best English scrum-half in the game.
There is no doubt in the Bradford Bulls No 7’s mind that his Huddersfield Giants counterpart is the finest around.
Equally, however, he knows Brough – for reasons only Steve McNamara truly knows – does not play for the country of his birth.
And so, given Rangi Chase’s inconsistent World Cup form, Gale realises the national job might be up for grabs in 2014, a year where he hopes to flourish into the complete playmaker himself.
“I don’t think anyone has rubber-stamped that No 7 jersey for England,” he said, ahead of Bradford’s opener against Castleford Tigers tomorrow.
“I believe Broughy is the best scrum-half we’ve got but for whatever reason he doesn’t get picked for England, which is strange.
“He has a massive kicking game but doesn’t get selected. I think my kicking game could add to that (for England) and I’ve still got England ambitions, definitely.
“I’ve not really been fit for the past two years and it is something I really want.
“I’ve played for the Knights a few times and the next step now is England.
“I just need to get my consistency week-in, week-out at Bradford and hope we do well too. Then hopefully England will come.”
Many thought the 25-year-old, whose guile and creativity are resonant with scrum-halves of old, would aid his hopes by signing for Hull FC this week.
The Airlie Birds made it known they were keen on him and an offer was – theoretically, at least – on the table.
Bradford having briefly re-entered administration around a fortnight ago, for the second time in just 18 months, had, understandably, raised concerns for their troubled players.
Prop Garreth Carvell did sign for Hull, prompting a threatened legal action from Bradford, and the West Yorkshire club’s vice-captain admits his head was turned too by last season’s Challenge Cup finalists.
Eventually, though, Leeds-born Gale emerged on Tuesday with an improved deal, extending his contract by a further year until the end of 2016 and handing Bradford a huge boost ahead of what will be a difficult Super League season.
“Obviously there were different options, but I don’t know how much I can talk about that,” said the ex-Harlequins player now in his third season at Odsal.
“I don’t know what the ruling is – whether I was under contract or not following the change of ownership – because I’m just a rugby player and I focus on that.
“(But) with other people leaving, you’ve got to look at your options in this day and age and you’d be stupid not to. I sat down with my agent, Craig Harrison, and we went over the options and the pros and cons.
“We sat down with (Bradford coach) Franny (Cummins) and the board and had a good hour’s chat. I wanted to seek assurances but I came out of that meeting a lot clearer and wanting to repay the faith they have shown in me and stay loyal to Bradford.
“We’ve been through a lot these past couple of years and you never know if you are coming or going; it seems to be one step forward and 10 steps back.
“It’s going to be tough this year and we don’t know how many points we’re going to have deducted (for administration) but we’ll have our full quota of Sky money next season.”
Did Carvell try talking him into that Hull switch?
“No, we didn’t really speak like that. I spoke to him on Tuesday and he said he saw I had signed a new deal.
“He wished me all the best and I wished him all the best. I told him to keep that forearm away from me when we play Hull, to make sure he doesn’t take my head off.”
His side were an “embarrassment” when they lost a friendly 66-10 to Castleford less than fortnight ago but goalkicker Gale insists this squad is good enough to make a “real impact” in 2014.
England coach McNamara will be watching too, even from his new day job at Sydney Roosters.
“When you are in the Knights, you have meetings throughout the year and he does a player performance (analysis) every week on Knights and England players,” explained Gale, who says, after an ankle clean-up at the end of last season, he is at his fittest since he was 18. “He can then see how wingers compare, how half-backs compare and so on.
“Therefore you can’t afford to have a bad game as you’re always being monitored.
“All I can do is make him sit up and take note.”
If he does, Hull’s loss could yet be both Bradford’s and England’s gain.