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England coach Steve McNamara focuses his thoughts on 2013 Rugby League World Cup glory
Topic Started: Feb 2 2012, 09:32 AM (753 Views)
stacey
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Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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Busy man: national head coach Steve McNamara will try to take in the entire Super League this season Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Steve McNamara will be at Headingley on Friday evening to catch the start of what he calls the most exciting, the most innovative, the most progressive sporting competition in the country: the Super League.

Leeds against Hull KR won’t be the last game he attends, either.

Over the next nine months, McNamara will become a familiar presence at league grounds across the country. He reckons, through both live attendance via television recordings, he will catch almost every kick, assess every tackle, analyse every tactical manoeuvre to be made in league confrontations. After all, it is the minimum requirement of being the England national coach.

“I like to get out and around,” he says. “It’s not just watching. You bump into players, and coaches and that’s important. A big part of the job is relationship building.” And that relationship is changing.

Unlike in rugby union, traditionally in rugby league the international game has been secondary to the domestic. What mattered was the Super League and the Challenge Cup, Leeds against St Helens, Wigan versus Warrington. Internationals were an after-thought, an end-of-season friendly romp. But, with the 2013 Rugby League World Cup to be played here, McNamara is anxious to challenge that view, not least because he believes it is the best way to proselytise the game.

“The England brand isn’t needed so much in the north of England to spread the word, there it’s embedded, the clubs sell the message,” he says. “But in non-rugby league areas, the England team gives an affinity, something to join on to, something to follow. Without doubt, a successful England team can be the catalyst to spreading the game in this country.”


In his time in charge of England, McNamara, the former Bradford Bulls coach, claims to have seen significant progress. “We introduced a new training squad camp, the England Knights programme which gives a bridge between youth teams and the senior side, we centred ourselves at the Loughborough training facility and it culminated in a fantastic Four Nations tournament last autumn, with two big games at Wembley,” he says. “We got some momentum, we got belief as a group. And I think the fans have got belief.”

The most significant change, he believes, is breaking down the inter-club rivalries that once stalled international integration.

“In the past it has been an issue, no doubt about it,” he says. “It’s an extreme sport we play, very physical, you’re battering blokes one week, it’s hard to be team-mates the next. It’s tribalistic, there’s a lot of inter-club rivalry. But to be successful internationally we need unity. We won’t get anywhere without it. So we’ve addressed those issues significantly. We got some taboo subjects out on the table and worked through them. I think you could tell in the Four Nations that the right vibe is being given off by the players. The unity within the group is there.”

And McNamara has spent much of the off-season studying how other sports manage the transition between local and national representation. He has sought the advice, among others, of Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Hodgson, Martin Johnson and Stuart Pearce.

“Pearce said something very helpful, which we’ve brought into our set-up: the idea of the two-team mentality,” he says. “We need to make everyone understand what a strong international team can bring to everyone’s benefit. Creating a strong two-team mentality is the first step. We’re trying to get everyone to appreciate that everything they can do to help England win the World Cup in 2013 will ultimately benefit them.”

Pearce’s contribution was, he says, one of a number of illuminations he has managed to bring in from beyond rugby league’s usual orbit.

“I found there were some really good lessons to be learned from other sports. Asking Sir Alex about his relationships with international coaches was revealing. English sport tends to be very insular. We all strive to be successful but we’re not the best at sharing best practice or ideas. In Australia, information sharing between one sport and another is huge. So many good things we do in rugby league we can share with others. And we can learn from other sports. Business as well.”
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TurboLine
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He has had a lot of doubters but England made positives steps in the last four nations. He may well take them to a WC final and win it! who knows.
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