x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

English rugby suffers with imports

England will have James Graham as captain and that is a problem because the powers-that-be in Super League have allowed the home-grown skills pool to be diluted by foreign signings.

James Graham sort of sums up English rugby league, an honest, hard-working player who never shirks the physical challenges of the often brutal game.

Graham will lead England against Australia tomorrow because two other honest, hard-working props, Jamie Peacock and Adrian Morley, are injured.

And that is the problem. Hard work alone will not be enough to beat the Aussies and England will be lucky to escape a Four Nations hammering in Melbourne. Too much fortitude, too little flair.

This is because the powers-that-be in Super League have allowed the home-grown skills pool to be diluted by foreign signings.

Need a nippy half-back? Attract an Aussie. Want a massive front- row forward? Call up a Kiwi. Fancy a winger with the build of a forward? Send for a Samoan. Super League is awash with an assortment of Antipodean imports.

And when a player with more skill than substance is unearthed in England nobody knows what to do with him. Sam Tomkins burst onto the scene at stand-off for the Wigan Warriors and won the Young Player of the Year award in 2009 and 2010.

But last season he was switched to full-back at Wigan and has been picked at scrum-half for England.

Tomkins is the sort of talent around whom a team should be built, not used as a utility player.

The solution is simple. End overseas recruitment. The England game may suffer for a couple of years but the result will be a pool of players capable of competing against the best in the world.

This is not likely to be the case tomorrow.

 

sentwistle@thenational.ae