TEST LEGEND Garry Schofield reckons England are no nearer to matching Australia and New Zealand, despite their competitive Four Nations campaign.
Schofield – the former Leeds centre and stand-off – has called for coach Steve McNamara to be replaced by Castleford Tigers’ Daryl Powell or Shaun Wane, of Wigan Warriors.
England beat Samoa by six points in their opening game, but then lost by four to the Aussies and two against the Kiwis, who will meet in Saturday’s final in Wellington.
RFL chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer claims England now stand “shoulder to shoulder” with their southern hemisphere rivals and described his reaction after the team’s tournament exit as “frustration at having gone so close and immense pride at what was achieved”.
But Schofield – who played 46 times for Great Britain from 1984-1994 – believes England have failed to close the gap on international rugby league’s big-two.
“I don’t buy into the scenario we are getting closer to them,” Schofield said. “Would you say this is a better New Zealand team than the last few years? I wouldn’t say so and it is the worst Australian team since 1978 – and we still can’t beat them. A bit more honesty is required.”
According to Schofield, the difference in intensity between the NRL – where the Aussies and Kiwis play their club rugby – and Super League is a major factor behind England’s international failure. “The Aussies and Kiwis are more patient under pressure and when they need to score a try or find a win they can do it,” he said. “When we are under pressure we don’t seem to do it. Our competition is not intense enough, week-in and week-out.”
The RFL are understood to be keen for McNamara to see out the final year of his contract, but Schofield feels the coach’s tactics contributed to England failing to reach the final.
“Steve McNamara made a huge mistake taking our best players off and spelling them – Daryl Clark and the front-rowers, ” said Schofield.
“If Daryl Clark had stayed on more against New Zealand on Saturday, England would have won the game. Brett Ferres is not an international player anyway and to put him in the most important position of hooker, Steve McNamara got it wrong tactically and he should go.
“We are in a results business. Quite clearly someone else should be given that job and for me there are two contenders.
“If you look at the way England play, there is a huge Wigan factor there and Shaun Wane should come into consideration. I also wouldn’t have any issues if Daryl Powell got the job. Both those coaches encourage open rugby league and if we play how we like to play, with a bit more awareness and creativity, we could trouble anybody.
“In the second half against Australia, when we were 12-4 ahead, we went to boring, robotic rugby league, just trying to play out our sets and that played into their hands. Shaun Wane and Daryl Powell play with a bit of creativity. Steve McNamara has had four years and not done anything and he should be replaced.”
On the positive side, Schofield felt Wigan centre Dan Sarginson was the find of the competition and hookers Clark and Josh Hodgson were also “excellent”. He added: “Everybody who played did well at times, but I would like to have seen more of Elliott Whitehead and Joe Westerman. They have got a good passing game and good creativity and they could have brought the centres into play a bit more.”