England will hope to profit from increased Super League intensity

Thomas Leuluai and Matty Smith swap jerseys.
Thomas Leuluai and Matty Smith swap jerseys.
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HE will be engrossed in all things Australian when beginning his second season as Sydney Roosters’ assistant coach in 2015.

However, England coach Steve McNamara concedes he will undertake more than just his usual watching brief on the forthcoming Super League campaign, too, given the importance he perceives it will have in helping the national side make crucial advancements.

There is no place for England in the Four Nations final tomorrow, the third time in the last four major tournaments McNamara’s side have failed to reach the showpiece of an event.

Granted, the margins of error have again been miniscule, just a two-point defeat to New Zealand after going down by only four to world champions Australia.

Yet, with no significant competition win in more than 40 years, they are still seeking that elusive success.

In McNamara’s eyes, the new-look Super League structure, which sees the competition reduced from 14 clubs to 12 and involves a fresh Super Eight play-off series, is critical.

“In terms of improving our chances of winning at international level hopefully the Super League competition will help do that next year,” he told The Yorkshire Post.

“When it comes to evolving and winning tight games we’re all really interested to see how the change in format will work out.

“But for me, our best teams and best players playing against each other on a more consistent basis with the ‘every second counts’ scenario, if that pans out the way we all want it to then it is a huge step in the right direction for the international team.

“A lot of these close games and really tight finishes that you get at international and State of Origin level and in the NRL, we do have in Super League but we don’t have it often enough.

“Structural change to the domestic competition could well be a real ingredient for us picking off these wins and is vital to us developing better players.

“Clubs are doing a great job in doing that, but if this new format increases the intensity and the closeness of the competition then that just sets us up a whole lot better when we get in those situations internationally.”

One of England’s emerging players is Daryl Clark, the 21-year-old Castleford Tigers hooker who now switches to Warrington Wolves having taken the Four Nations by storm.

“Daryl did make an impression; he’s a very good player and he’ll be a big loss for Castleford,” added McNamara.

“That’s a real shame for them, but he’s certainly enhanced his reputation over here.

“They weren’t talking about him in Australia initially, but they certainly are doing now.

“But there’s plenty of others too, like Ryan Hall. He just performs every single time.

“He certainly enjoys his time with us, plays strong. He was great.”

Although prolific Leeds winger Hall has long been established on the world stage, young Wigan Warriors centre Dan Sarginson emerged in real style, making an impressive debut against Australia after coming in for Castleford captain Michael Shenton.

“It was a tough call on Michael Shenton,” admitted the coach.

“At international level they are all good players and often it’s not about dropping someone, but more choosing someone over them for some reason.

“That person has not done too much wrong, but it’s because you think another person may be suited for the next game against that opposition.

“Sarge took it with both hands and continued that form into the Kiwi game, but Michael was an absolute professional in the way he took that decision.

“He was clearly disappointed with it, but the way he conducted himself personally and for the rest of the group and the impact that had on the group was outstanding. I can’t speak highly enough of him on that.”

McNamara admits he will watch on with “envy” as New Zealand play Australia in tomorrow’s final at Wellington, the Kiwis hoping to recreate the feats of their opening game win over the Kangaroos when they thrashed the world champions 30-12 in Brisbane.

“I will watch it,” he said, “but I’m not sure which way it will go.

“Australia certainly have something to prove after the last time they played the Kiwis.

“Whether they’ve got enough (quality) to do that I’m not sure but then again it is two evenly-matched teams.”

That remains to be seen. The sickness that has swept through the Kangaroos’ camp and forced coach Tim Sheens to cancel training on Wednesday does, admittedly, appear to be on the wane.

Prop David Klemmer, who lost around 11 pounds in less than 24 hours, half-back Daly Cherry-Evans and winger Sione Mata’utia have all battled a stomach bug while scrum-half Cooper Cronk was laid low with a flu-like virus that affected Greg Inglis, Sam Thaiday and Sheens earlier in the tournament.

However, all four completed the Kangaroos’ first training session in Wellington yesterday and are expected to play tomorrow.

For England, their next scheduled games are a three-Test series here next autumn.

McNamara said: “I know there is a huge mutual respect between us, the Kiwis and the Australians, too, given what Tim Sheens and (captain) Cameron Smith have said here about England when they play us now.

“We’ve always had good Test matches against the Kiwis and it’s a cracking tour which is long overdue.

“We’re all looking forward to it. It’s an important series for us again. We’ve performed well in the last two and just not quite got across the line. We’re desperate to do that next time around.”