Leeds Rhinos: Cuthbertson may switch his allegiance to England

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LEEDS RHINOS import Adam Cuthbertson has been in talks over a possible call into the England squad.

Cuthbertson was born in Australia, but qualifies for England through his father, who is originally from Warrington.

The former Newcastle Knights prop has been one of the most impressive forwards in First Utility Super League this term and has indicated he would consider turning out in this year’s three-Test series against New Zealand.

England coach Steve McNamara, who is on the backroom staff at Australian NRL club Sydney City Roosters, is currently on a visit to this country and confirmed Cuthbertson is on his radar.

Cuthbertson did not attend a meeting between McNamara and last year’s Four Nations squad, but Leeds forwards Stevie Ward and Brad Singleton were invited.

“We’re always looking at ways to improve our playing squad and performance,” McNamara confirmed.

“If a player like Adam was available, wanted to play and we were convinced the reasons he wanted to do it were the right ones, then we would consider that selection, yes. I’ve spoken to Adam.”

But McNamara insisted just because Cuthbertson is eligible, that doesn’t mean he will be an automatic pick.

“There’s a lot of players who qualify to play for England for one reason or another, but it’s really important we keep the identity of the England team,” he stressed.

“We’re not the kind of country who, every four years, we shuffle players in for a World Cup to strengthen the team – the England identity is paramount.

“There’s players who at various times have put their hands up.

“If you look at the register there’s players who qualify for all sorts of different countries, but it’s not something we actively go out and search for.

“However, I have a duty of care to look at it and determine whether it’s right for the international programme. There are obvious ones we’ve done like Rangi [Chase] and not so obvious ones we haven’t.”

McNamara believes Super League’s new structure will boost England’s chances of success at international level.

“It’s working,” he said. “You only have to look at the closeness of the competition and see how intense it is.

“Everyone isn’t sure whether they’re going to make the top-eight or whether they’re going to fight to stay in Super League.

“The international games we’ve been involved in have been fine margins over the last couple of years – unfortunately we’ve been on the wrong end of those fine margins, though.

“Our England programme has helped to increase performance, but the domestic competition changing has been done in a way that increases the strength of the game.”

Meanwhile, Huddersfield Giants today confirmed the signing of World Cup-winning forward Sam Rapira from New Zealand Warriors, on a two-year deal. Rapira was strongly linked with Rhinos, though the club refused to comment on their alleged interest in him and one senior source said he was never a realistic option.

Rapira said: “After 10 years at the Warriors, I can’t wait for the new challenge of playing in Super League.”

“I decided to sign up with the Giants because I’ve heard positive things about the club and they have shown a lot of enthusiasm in getting me over there.”