ENGLAND rookie Carl Ablett has defended the Autumn International series.
The Leeds Rhinos back-row/centre has no time for critics who reckon England’s matches against Wales and France – and their training camp in South Africa – have been worthless as preparation for next year’s World Cup.
Ablett is hoping to earn his fifth cap when England face France in tomorrow’s autumn tournament final and he insisted the national side have learned a lot from their matches so far, despite the one-sided scorelines.
“Probably a lot of people are saying ‘why bother playing?’” Ablett accepted. “But Australia and New Zealand don’t want to play and we need to be playing and getting together as a group to work on things and get our preparation right.
“We’ve had a look at a few things we needed to look at and it is an opportunity to represent England.
“No matter what the opposition is, you need the unity we’ve got from the camps we’ve had. We had 10 days in South Africa and three weeks together over here and we’ve learned a lot about each other.
“We will be better for it next year, when the World Cup comes around.”
Ablett added: “It has been well worthwhile, the camps have been great. I know some people said there was no point having the South Africa trip when we are playing Wales and France.
“But if you speak to the conditioners, they have got a lot of benefits from it. If England are going to be doing it next year it’s great to do it now and get some feedback from it and to know how it (training at altitude) affects you.
“It would be no good doing it next year, going into a World Cup, without knowing what the benefits are.
“During the camps over here we’ve been finding out about the new players in the squad and it has shown we have got strength in depth.
“There’s four of five players in Australia who haven’t been here, James Graham’s not been available and neither has James Roby, Ben Westwood, Jon Wilkin...
“We will be even stronger when we get them back.”
After last Saturday’s 44-6 win over France, England are 1-100 odds-on favourites to win tomorrow’s game, which kicks off at Salford City Stadium at 5pm.
France are 16-1 and have been given a 38-point start on the handicap coupon, but Ablett insisted England aren’t taking anything for granted.
“Things can change and a week is a long time in sport,” he warned. “Anyone involved will tell you that. When you play a team twice in two weeks and they’ve been embarrassed in the first game, they will want to put things right.
“We know what to expect and French teams are always tough. They have got some big forwards and they’ll be bringing it to us.
“We aren’t concentrating too much on them, it is more about our preparation and how we want to play. We want to stick to the structures we’ve got defensively.
“That’s been great for us, we’ve put some things in place and it will be a big focus for us on Sunday to have the same commitment and intensity in defence and to restrict France to not many points.
“If you do that, you’ve got a great chance of winning games. We’re going into a World Cup and everyone knows in those big games you have to defend well.”
Ablett missed just three of Rhinos’ 37 competitive matches this year and has also turned out four times for England, including substitute appearances in both the 80-12 win over Wales a fortnight ago and last week’s game.