FIVE-TIME Super League champion Carl Ablett says the World Cup has made him a better player.
Ablett, 28, returned to training with Leeds Rhinos this week for the first time since the end of last season.
He spent October and November in camp with England and played in two matches of the home nation’s World Cup campaign, which ended in the agony of a last-gasp semi-final defeat to New Zealand. Ablett – who was an unused substitute that day – admitted the hurt has yet to go away, but insisted Leeds will reap the benefits this year.
“We are all still carrying a little bit of disappointment,” Ablett said of Leeds’ England contingent.
“But speaking personally, it was a great experience being involved in the World Cup. I was involved in a great squad and being there and experiencing the camp was great for me. I will take a lot from it, just being there and experiencing the preparation and playing against Australia.
“No stone was left unturned with the preparation and you learn about yourself, being in camp for six or seven weeks with all the different lads.
“I gained a lot from speaking to the other lads, from Australia and over here and it was good to get their thoughts on the game. You try to use that to try and make you better.”
Ablett admitted he is glad to be back at Leeds and focusing on the coming season, rather than reflecting on England’s unsuccessful campaign.
“I know the lads are all disappointed we got so close and didn’t manage to do what we wanted to do,” he said.
“But we will soon forget about it. We’ve come back into it with Leeds, with a different set of lads and your focus soon changes. We are all pretty determined because of what happened at Leeds last year and the way we bowed out.
“We have got to be more consistent this year and we just want to start now and have a big pre-season. Everybody’s bouncing and this week has been pretty good, considering it’s our first week.”
Coach Steve McNamara’s controversial decision to leave Ablett on the bench throughout the Kiwi clash was widely criticised, but the Leeds back-rower denied he has a point to prove. “I was devastated at the time,” he admitted. “I thought I could have done a job in that final game and I was really disappointed not to get used.
“But it is one of those things, he (McNamara) said he couldn’t find a place or a time for me to get on. It was still a great tournament for me, but just disappointing it finished the way it did. You go away and have your break and a rest and then you are ready to go again.”
Ablett said there’s a determination among the Leeds players to be better this year, after they failed to reach either major final in 2013.
“We have got a great squad here,” he said. “We’ve got some good depth and a few youngsters. We are all focused, and we know what we’ve got to do. Hopefully we can carry on over the next six weeks so we are good to go for the first game.”