Grand Final: McNamara watching brief for showdown

Steve McNamara
Steve McNamara
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England coach Steve McNamara will be an anxious spectator among the 73,000 sell-out crowd at tonight’s First Utility Super League Grand Final.

McNamara is flying back from Australia in time to watch the title decider between Leeds and Wigan as he finalises his preparations for the autumn internationals.

The Sydney Roosters assistant coach will name his 24-man squad for the one-off Test against France and the three-match series against New Zealand at lunchtime tomorrow, and as many as a dozen of his candidates could be involved at Old Trafford, including his captain Sean O’Loughlin.

Former Bradford Bulls coach McNamara has already lost the services of NRL-based duo George Burgess and Jack Reed with respective hip and shoulder injuries and Leeds second-row Stevie Ward has been ruled out with a knee injury.

Yesterday, Warrington Wolves confirmed utility player Stefan Ratchford will undergo knee and shoulder surgery, which will almost certainly rule him out of contention.

Meanwhile, St Helens prop Alex Walmsley looks certain to be sidelined with an ankle injury that dogged the former Batley Bulldogs player during the end of the domestic season.

The loss of both Walmsley, who was shortlisted for Steve Prescott Man of Steel after a stellar season with his club, and Burgess reduces McNamara’s options in the front-row.

That could pave the way for a recall for Warrington’s Ben Westwood, who missed the 2014 Four Nations Series through injury.

Among the players hoping for a first senior call-up are Warrington second-row Ben Currie, who played for Ireland in the 2013 World Cup, Castleford Tigers scrum-half Luke Gale, prolific Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGillvary and the Wigan pair of George Williams and John Bateman, who will both be in the thick of the action at Old Trafford.