Carl Ablett: GB Lions are a part of our game’s heritage

Ryan Hall.
Ryan Hall.
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THE RETURN of the Great Britain rugby league team is welcome news.

As a kid growing up I used to watch GB’s Test matches and that’s the jersey I always dreamed of pulling on.

Wayne Bennett.

Wayne Bennett.

I think we lost something when it was split into England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland 10 years ago, though I was a proud man every time I played for England.

I think every player who qualifies will be targeting getting on the Lions’ tour in two years’ time, but I just wonder how much will change from England.

If a Great Britain side was being picked now, most of the players would be from the England team so I am not sure it is going to make a huge amount of practical difference.

But from a heritage point of view, the Great Britain side is a massive part of our sport and it’ll be fantastic to see it brought back. Maybe by the time it is, England will be world champions!

Steve McNamara.

Steve McNamara.

There’s a long way to go, but I think the midseason Test against Samoa went a lot better than most people expected. Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall have been back in training with us this week and they’ve said it was a good experience and they’ve gained a lot from it.

I think England were in a bit of a no-win situation. If they beat Samoa, which they did, everyone was always going to say that’s what they should have done and it doesn’t mean very much. If they’d lost or won a close game there would have been a huge furore and all the critics would have been writing off their chances of beating Australia or New Zealand in the World Cup.

The big thing was they got to spend some time together and with the coach Wayne Bennett, and the performance staff will have had chance to look at the logistics of travel, getting over jetlag and that sort of thing.

I think what people on the outside don’t appreciate is how important time spent together as a national squad is. When I played for England and Steve McNamara was coach he was very keen to create a club atmosphere, so you all get to know each other and feel comfortable in each other’s company.

The only way you do that is by going on camp and playing matches.

England played pretty well and hats off to Hally for his try. That makes it 31 in 31 Tests, which is astonishing.

Even playing 31 Tests is pretty remarkable in the modern game. Anyone who says he isn’t one of the world’s top wingers doesn’t know what they are talking about.

His game has evolved over the years and he isn’t scoring as many tries as he did at the start of his Rhinos career, but he is a huge influence on our team and I would have him in my side every day of the week.

There’s been a bit of an international theme recently. The Test weekend worked really well, but some New Zealand players reportedly possessing cocaine afterwards wasn’t the sort of news anyone wanted to hear.

It’s not great for the game when things like that happen. These days, when everyone has camera phones, you can’t get away with anything.

I wonder how common that sort of thing is and I hope the players involved are going to get the help they need if they have a problem with drug use.

But the bottom line is they have to take responsibility for their own actions. Players have a responsibility to the game that provides them with a living and they have to accept they are role models and behave like it, on and off the field.

It was good to see Toronto get a 6,000 crowd for their opening game. That was a fantastic effort, but Celtic Crusaders got 10,000 for their first Super League match and there were almost 20,000 fans at Paris’ debut 21 years ago.

It’s encouraging, but let’s see what the crowds are like after five or six games.

Finally, I watched our game against Catalans on TV last week and I couldn’t believe the support we got. The noise from the fans was outstanding and all the boys have been talking about it this week.

Taking 1,000 supporters over there is a brilliant effort and they definitely helped us get over the line. On behalf of the players, big thanks to you all.

Liam Sutcliffe.

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