FORMER England captain Jamie Peacock believes the best is still yet to come from Danny McGuire and insists he has to be part of the international set-up if World Cup glory is to be achieved.
The prolific Leeds Rhinos scrum-half plays his testimonial match against Bradford Bulls at Headingley Carnegie tomorrow with fans expected to come out in force to celebrate the career of one of the game’s modern greats.
Prop Peacock will feature in a full-strength Rhinos side, playing his first pre-season game since 1999 as a sign of his own respect for the highest try-scorer in Super League history.
McGuire, 30, has won six Grand Finals with Leeds since debuting for his home town in 2001 and has also taken three World Club Challenges.
Peacock told the Yorkshire Post: “The number of times he has shown up in the big games with big plays is just countless.
“If we needed a try or someone to get on the end of something, Maggsy would be there and that shows how good a player he is.
“The tries he has scored against St Helens in Challenge Cup semis down the years spring to mind or the one he got in the 2004 Grand Final when I was still playing for Bradford Bulls.
“He is a player who has really grown and matured into a very talented player, working consistently hard on other areas of his game. He has done the right things over the years, looked after himself and is in great shape.”
So much so that Peacock believes his Headingley colleague must be an integral part of Steve McNamara’s international plans, too.
For various reasons, McGuire has not played for England since 2008 but many hope to see him recreate his club half-back partnership with Kevin Sinfield on the grandest of stages.
“If they’re both playing well, I’d like to see that,” admitted Peacock, who retired from international duty himself last season.
“There’s a lot of different potential combinations but if England are to do well in the World Cup, Maggsy has to be in the squad somewhere, maybe even the starting line-up.”
Champions Leeds start their Super League season at home to Hull FC on Friday, February 1.
Hull – who warmed up against Castleford Tigers last week – step up their own preparations tomorrow when they host Hull KR in the first derby clash of 2013.
Coach Peter Gentle said: “We’ll run with about 20 players against KR and all have a genuine chance of playing against Leeds.
“I’m not doing anybody any favours by giving them a game; they’ve earned the opportunity and they’re all fighting for a place.”
Following the retirement of Stuart Dickens, Ireland scrum-half Liam Finn has been named the new captain of Featherstone Rovers.
n East Hull were paired with Siddal in last night’s Challenge Cup second round draw.
Elsewhere, there is an intriguing derby tie as West Hull face Hull Dockers.
Cup draw: Myton Warriors v Leeds Metropolitan University, West Hull v Hull Dockers, Hunslet Old Boys v Saddleworth Rangers, Leigh Miners Rangers v Milford Marlins, Wigan St Patricks v Thatto Heath Crusaders, East Hull v Siddal, Royal Air Force v East Leeds, Blackbrook v Oulton Raiders, Leigh East v British Army, Royal Navy v Skirlaugh, Ince Rose Bridge v Wath Brow Hornets.
The ties will be played on Saturday March 9.
n Tickets for the 2013 Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 24 are now on sale. Visit www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or call 0844 856 1113 for full details.