Horse racing fan Gale is hoping to stay the World Cup distance

Luke Gale

Aside from the obvious rugby league, one thing Luke Gale has in common with his distinguished England coach Wayne Bennett is a love of the gee-gees.

To any betting punters out there, there will be little surprise to see the Castleford Tigers scrum-half lining up for the national side in today’s World Cup game against Lebanon.

Wayne Bennett

Admittedly, Bennett altered his half-back pairing in every Four Nations game last autumn, Gale paying the price in the last fixture when he was dropped for the bitterly disappointing 36-18 loss against Australia in London.

However, 12 months on, the newly-crowned Man of Steel showed enough quality in last week’s opening 18-4 loss against the Kangaroos to suggest he can last the distance and deserve the No7 jersey for the entirety of this current tournament.

Talking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of this morning’s encounter in Sydney, Gale said: “It was good to get Wayne’s backing.

“Now I want to back it up again with a few good games.

“Hopefully I can work on my combinations and they will flourish in the coming weeks, starting on Saturday.

“It’s exciting just to be a part of this World Cup. Australia is a great place to have it; there’s fans everywhere, every time you walk down the street and everyone is behind you.

“It’s really positive and we’ve visited a few different places so far. I’m looking forward now to playing in the Allianz Stadium.”

Of those places visited, there was a particular one of interest for Yorkshireman Gale.

“After we played Australia, we went to Moonee Valley Racecourse in Melbourne and saw Winx, the famous racehorse, who won her third straight Cox Plate title,” said the 29-year-old, who, along with former Leeds Rhinos and England star Danny McGuire, is part of the Champagne Charlies syndicate that owns several racehorses of their own.

“It was awesome, brilliant to go see and the boys loved it.

“Wayne really likes his racing as well and he likes us to go out and see different parts of the country. He pushes us to experience things and seeing Winx win a 22nd race in a row was great.”

The champion mare Winx made history by becoming only the second horse ever to win three consecutive Cox Plate titles and took £1.75m prize money with the victory.

Gale helped Castleford make their own history this term with a first-ever League Leaders’ Shield and maiden Grand Final appearance but the ultimate achievement would be helping England become the first northern hemisphere side to lift the World Cup since Great Britain in 1972.

Ahead of his sixth cap, the former Bradford Bulls captain knows they have to be ruthless.

England had plenty of opportunities to try and exploit Australia when trailing just 10-4 in the second half last week but were undone by a couple of late lapses at the death.

“Australia set the benchmark in this competition and we have to focus on improving every time we pull on the jersey now,” added Gale, as they prepare to face the 500-1 outsiders who are coached by legendary former Australia stand-off Brad Fittler.

“We won’t be taking Lebanon lightly. They’ll be well-drilled by Brad Fittler while Robbie Farah has a wealth of NRL experience.

“But we’ll be looking to play with our own confidence. It was encouraging last week. We spoke about making improvement on last year’s game against the Aussies and that was evident.

“It was a great battle but we just couldn’t quite nick that try to put them under that extra pressure we needed to.

“There was long periods where we were really in it and plenty of positives to take.”

Today marks the first time England have played Lebanon, the fledgling rugby league nation who only featured in their maiden World Cup in 2000.

Back then, they were vanquished 64-0 by New Zealand, but only lost 24-22 against Wales and drew with the Cook Islands.

Furthermore, they secured their first World Cup win last week with a shock 29-18 success over France in Canberra.

With NRL stars like Farah and Mitchell Moses, and backed by a Lebanese community of around 200,000 living in the suburbs of Sydney – many of whom are rugby league fanatics – they will be keen to now generate a far bigger upset against Gale and co.

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