CASTLEFORD Tigers star Luke Gale hopes he has proved his worth to Wayne Bennett after admitting he asked the England coach why he was dropped for last year’s crucial Four Nations game against Australia.
Having helped impressive England defeat Samoa 30-10 in Sydney, the scrum-half returns for the Super League leaders in Saturday’s televised Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth round tie against St Helens.
As one of the competition’s form players, Gale hopes to further enhance his chances of playing in the World Cup at the end of this season.
Gale made his Test debut under Bennett in France last autumn and also started in the Four Nations openers against Scotland and New Zealand before being left out of the 17 for the must-win game against the Kangaroos.
England duly lost, failing to make the final, and Gale told The Yorkshire Post: “I spoke with Wayne about that as I was pretty disappointed.
“He said he felt he just needed to change things up a bit at that point. We’d had a tough game (losing 17-16) against New Zealand, Scotland was frustrating – they weren’t great opposition but had a dig at us – and then for Australia he wasn’t sure which way to go.
“He switched things and I was disappointed but he’s shown he is still thinking about me by picking me against Samoa and it’s up to me now to keep performing.”
The 28-year-old has been inspirational for Castleford and it was no surprise he was selected for that mid-season international.
Gale said: “Samoa gave us a real test and had some great players in there but we performed well.
“Our attack can still be better but it was definitely better than the Four Nations.
At this level everyone gets on and that is a big thing. It helped us put in that display and we got the job done. Don’t forget, out there no-one really gave us a chance.Castleford Tigers and England star Luke Gale
“We showed a lot of character and, having travelled halfway across the world, I thought we did really well considering we only had two field sessions together.
“I only got there Monday night, didn’t train Tuesday and so we just had Wednesday and the team-run Friday. I was happy, though, and will look to hopefully back it up now in the World Cup.”
First, in-form Castleford, seeking a first league title, will look to take a step towards Wembley.
“I don’t see why we can’t go for both,” insisted the Yorkshireman. “It will be a tough game. Saints are struggling a bit but they beat us on Easter Monday and Mark Percival and Alex Walmsley will be back chomping at the bit looking to prove a point after they didn’t face Samoa last week.
“But we’re looking forward to it and I can’t wait to get back out there with Cas.”
The former Bradford captain missed the Tigers game at Huddersfield last Thursday but Daryl Powell’s side managed a 26-21 win without him or fellow England players Zak Hardaker and Mike McMeeken.
They also overcame a half-back crisis with Benny Roberts already missing injured and former England star Rangi Chase failing to complete the first half due to a neck injury.
Castleford hope both will be fit to face St Helens and Gale said: “I actually watched the game when I was out there, on the other side of the world.
“It was a good win and I was pleased for young Tom Holmes coming on at scrum-half. He did well and Paul McShane slotted in at half-back from hooker while nailing every kick, too, so the goal-kicking practice I’ve been giving him clearly worked!”
Castleford maintained a one-point lead at the top of Super League as they backed up their impressive 54-4 rout of champions Wigan Warriors.
On his experience in Australia, Gale added: “The one main thing that I took out of it more than anything else was just how much everyone cares for one another. The boys really do like each other’s company and I know it’s a bit of a cliche but it’s not always been like that.”
“I’ve been in England set-ups in the junior ranks when you’d have your little cliques of Wigan players or Warrington or Saints but at this level everyone gets on and that is a big thing.
“It helped us put in that display and we got the job done. Don’t forget, out there no-one really gave us a chance.
“Rugby league is massive in Sydney – it’s like football here – and the build-up to the match was on the news all the time.
“People weren’t backing us; Samoa had picked a strong team with plenty of NRL players in but we went well.”
Furthermore, Bennett’s plans were disrupted significantly with the loss of stand-off Gareth Widdop shortly after he was named in the 20-man squad before Wigan half-back George Williams had to pull out the night before he was due to travel having also been injured at Castleford.
Gale, who kicked five goals from six attempts against Samoa, admitted: “Beforehand, the half-back area looked real strong with all the possibilities we had.
“Then, with those injuries and late call-ups, it was a bit up in the air about who’d be playing.
“But Kev Brown came in, who I’ve played with before and get on well with, and he did well. It was a solid performance from us and it sets the side up well for the World Cup.”