Truly, what must Danny Brough do next?
The Huddersfield Giants scrum-half’s continued exclusion from Steve McNamara’s England side is as baffling as Brian Noble picking Richard Horne in 2006.
Back then, Leeds Rhinos livewire Rob Burrow – the one flair player Australia genuinely feared – was sat twiddling his thumbs in the stands for a sixth consecutive week when the tourists had to win at Brisbane.
Brough is of a similar breed. He excites, creates and has the ability to produce something out of nothing. That is before we even mention he has the best kicking game in Super League.
McNamara learnt a lesson after the doomed 2010 Four Nations when he realised he had to hugely improve that aspect of his side’s performance. No doubt it was why Brough was named in the England squad to face the Exiles last June and Huddersfield pal Kevin Brown was jettisoned.
However, an injury suffered just days before the inaugural Origin International saw him miss out and, by the autumn, he was deemed so much out of form he did not even make the 24-man Four Nations squad.
Brough was recalled for this weekend but was yesterday told he is one of four players – Huddersfield team-mate Leroy Cudjoe, Hull FC’s Tom Briscoe and St Helens’ Jon Wilkin the others – omitted for actual match day.
McNamara cited the fact Huddersfield played Monday night as a contributing factor but really? Giants prop Eorl Crabtree is in the side after also playing against Hull KR.
The hope must be the England coach is simply holding Brough back for the second Origin game.
If that is the case, he has to make sure Brough is then at No 7 for the entire 80 minutes. He may not cut it at international level, who knows, but he deserves a chance and time is running out for the 2013 World Cup.
McNamara has stuck with Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase as his half-back pairing. Each has his qualities but equally so both left some question marks after the Four Nations and, indeed, on this season’s form as well.
McNamara knows plenty about both so surely it would have been better to pick Brough for both games, perhaps with the other two options interchanging?
There are three debutants with Wigan’s Josh Charnley, Super League’s top try-scorer on 22 deservedly getting a shot.
That is no disgrace on Briscoe but, like my earlier point, McNamara is already au fait with all the Hull winger’s qualities.
Wigan prop Lee Mossop certainly warrants his call as does Leeds utility Carl Ablett.
However, even Ablett does not truly think he is a centre yet McNamara has given the back-row a chance to prove otherwise at the expense of some notable candidates. There can be no complaints about Wigan second-row Gareth Hock’s inclusion – he is Super League’s form forward – while Danny Tickle’s call is also well-merited.
The matured Hull FC second-row has consistently been a high performer but knows, in England’s most competitive position, this could be his only chance. Which is still one more opportunity than Brough has had.
England: Tomkins (Wigan); Charnley (Wigan), Ablett (Leeds), Atkins (Warrington), Hall (Leeds); Sinfield (Leeds), Chase (Castleford); Crabtree (Huddersfield), Roby (St Helens), Peacock (Leeds, capt), Hock (Wigan), Tickle (Hull), O’Loughlin (Wigan). Replacements: Burrow (Leeds), Carvell (Warrington), Mossop (Wigan), Jones-Buchanan (Leeds).
Exiles: Hodgson (Warrington, capt); Monaghan (Warrington), Sa (Catalan), Millard (Catalan), Meli (St Helens); Leuluai (Wigan), Dureau (Catalan); Puletua (St Helens), Hohaia (St Helens), Lima (Wigan), Manu (Hull), Soliola (St Helens), Waterhouse (Warrington). Replacements (from): Laffranchi (St Helens), Kaufusi (London), Fa’alogo (Huddersfield), Faiumu (Huddersfield), Lauaki (Wigan).