CASTLEFORD Tigers head coach Daryl Powell has urged hooker Paul McShane to keep the faith as the debate goes on as to why he remains outside of the England squad looking in.
The 29-year-old – who faces his home-town club Leeds Rhinos tomorrow – has for some time been one of Super League’s top nines, his move from Wakefield Trinity to Wheldon Road in 2015 proving a catalyst for career-best form.
McShane’s displays as Castleford raced to the League Leaders’ Shield two years ago were outstanding. He has improved further since then and, no doubt, will be influential yet again in the forthcoming televised West Yorkshire derby at Emerald Headingley.
Nevertheless the burly hooker, who exerts such control from dummy-half, continues to be overlooked by England coach Wayne Bennett.
The Australian’s latest 30-man England Performance Squad was announced on Monday, followed by the England Knights yesterday, and McShane’s name was nowhere to be seen.
It many ways, though, it is understandable; Bennett is spoilt for choice when it comes to hookers given St Helens star James Roby’s stellar quality remains undimmed and Josh Hodgson continues to excel in the NRL for Canberra Raiders.
Furthermore Warrington’s Daryl Clark – one of McShane’s predecessors at Wheldon Road –has rediscovered his 2014 Man of Steel form.
Powell conceded he was “disappointed” McShane did not earn recognition again, but insisted: “He has just got to keep going, keep playing well.
“James Roby at the moment is playing right on top of his game and there’s Josh Hodgson and Daryl Clark so there’s some unbelievable nines around at the moment and Paul’s right in the middle of that.
“He has to keep improving, keep playing well and hopefully he will get the chance.”
McShane, a former England Academy international, could be encouraged by club-mate Liam Watts, the impressive prop who, having similarly been ignored at the elite level, has now earned a place in Bennett’s squad.
He is 28 years old, has had to bide his time and may still not yet actually break into the squad that will head off on tour as Great Britain travel to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea this autumn.
But Powell, a former Great Britain tourist himself, added: “You have always got to keep trying as much as you possibly can.
“Wattsy has changed some things about himself and I think Macca is always improving.
“He needs to change a couple of little bits and pieces possibly and then you just never know.
“There’s nothing to say he doesn’t go on tour at the end of this year. He’s just got to have an outstanding season again.
“That’s all he can do, he can’t do anything else. It comes down to somebody else’s decision at the end of the day, but he would not look out of place.
“Just keep working hard, keep getting better and when you come up against the better nines you’ve probably got to be better than them.
“That’s the key.”
Clearly that did not happen on Friday when McShane was outplayed by Roby in a one-sided 42-12 defeat against leaders Saints.
Admittedly he was not on his own and it was only a second defeat of the season for Powell’s side.
Still, they will quickly seek to banish the memory when they head to Leeds – who released McShane in 2013 – tomorrow evening.
“You never want to lose two games on the trot,” said Powell.
“It is important to strike back pretty quickly and over the last few years we’ve been great at that.
“We have been really consistent in terms of striking back quickly when we lose so this is an important game for us.
“We came up against a pretty good rugby league team last week and sometimes you hold your hand up and say that and you move on.
“I think at the moment we are a little bit up and down with our form and we want to get back to being a bit more consistent with how we play.”
Castleford’s matchday squad could be unchanged.
They have doubts over Nathan Massey and Adam Milner, but the only change to the 19-man squad sees Will Maher replace the unused Tuoyo Egodo,
Prop Maher tore his pectoral muscle during the first session of pre-season and only returned a couple of weeks ago while on dual-registration with Halifax.
However, he and former Leeds second-row Chris Clarkson are waiting in the wings if Massey and/or Milner fail to pull through in time for kick-off.