Dave Craven: Drafting in Aussie Hodkinson not the answer for England

Castleford Tigers' Luke Gale.

Castleford Tigers' Luke Gale.

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I HAVE to admit to suffering from that sinking feeling.

Not only because of all the political turmoil that is engulfing the country following a tumultuous period that will go down in history as one of the nation’s most seismic shifts.

Granted, that has got everyone thinking and many deeply concerned. But, aside from those troubled machinations, what also left me winded back in the rugby league world was the realisation that Wayne Bennett is seriously considering bringing in Trent Hodkinson as his England scrum-half.

For those who aren’t avid followers of the game Down Under, Australian Hodkinson plays No 7 for Newcastle Knights, currently bottom of the NRL.

Admittedly, he is a fine player, having represented New South Wales State of Origin side six times, the last occasion being just last year.

He also knows James Graham, the England prop, well having been co-captain with him when Canterbury Bulldogs played South Sydney and Sam Burgess’s heroics in the 2014 Grand Final.

Hodkinson, though, has not represented his country and, because of that and the fact he qualifies for England through his father, Bennett is said to be contemplating bringing the Sydney-born and raised player on board for Four Nations at the end of the season.

Now, it is easy to understand why the 66-year-old will be keen to surround himself with players who he is familiar with and, as Brisbane Broncos chief, Bennett has seen Hodkinson plenty.

He must feel the 27-year-old will increase chances of England achieving that long-eluding major tournament success this autumn.

But would he? Granted, for many years the national side has struggled to get their half-back balance right and forge a partnership capable of bringing down the best but currently Bennett has options already here.

On reading news about Hodkinson, Castleford Tigers’ Luke Gale must have winced.

After making Super League’s Dream Team for the first time last year, he was an unused member of Steve McNamara’s England squad that defeated the Kiwis in a three Test series.

Given the way his form has improved further still since, it seemed Gale would certainly be in the reckoning to make his international debut this time around under the expert eye of Bennett. It was a natural progression.

But it appears not if Bennett, who refused to perform any media duties during his week-long trip to the UK, is striving to look at this other option.

The word is he is investigating other Australian players with English qualification, too, to swell the numbers further.

It could be argued he is doing what he thinks is best to help England win a first major tournament since 1972, bringing some of the ruthlessness that has made him the most revered coach in the world, and he won’t care one jot about the repercussions.

Indeed, if it emerged Johnathan Thurston was from Bristol and not Brisbane, I would be all for bringing him over to have stab for England.

But Trent Hodkinson is not in that calibre. Granted, he is of a higher standard than Chris Heighington, the Wests Tigers forward who McNamara bizarrely enrolled in 2011 given the player’s father was from Durham. But, in this instance, I do not believe there is any great need to scour so far.

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