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End of the road for Morley?

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George Riley George Riley | 17:23 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2012

Steve McNamara's latest England squad casts a major doubt over the international career of Great Britain's most-capped player.

Adrian Morley is a modern rugby league great, and while McNamara insists the international door remains open for the 35-year-old prop, my fear would be that the door is creaking shut.

Morley could yet return to the squad for the second of two Exiles games later in the summer, but on form and fitness - criteria the England coach continues to point to in underlining his selections, his absence is no real surprise. Morley is only two games back from a neck injury and has yet to commit to playing into 2013.

I can't think there are many rugby league romantics who would not want to see 'Moz' given the opportunity to bow out at next year's home World Cup.

Adrian Morley

Warrington forward Adrian Morley has been left out of the England squad to face the Exiles. Photo: Getty

But realistically there are younger, hungrier props in better form than the great man, and although skipper Jamie Peacock will also be 35 later this year, I do doubt the prospects of seeing England's twin towers together at the World Cup.

The two other big stories are recalls for Morley's Warrington team-mate Ryan Atkins and Wigan forward Gareth Hock. Atkins has been left out in the cold by McNamara since opting out of international duty last year and hasn't played for his country now in two years.

The Wolves centre was privately seething at being left out of the last elite training squad when he was arguably Super League's in-form centre. Atkins maintains he pulled out of England duty for "personal reasons" and to nurse an injury.

I understand McNamara saw it differently and has questioned his commitment. The pair have since chatted, with the player being reminded of what his coach expects of an international player. Hock is in line for his first England cap since being banned for cocaine two years ago.

At the time of his drugs suspension he would have been one of the first forward names on the team sheet. It is testament to his immense talent and animal hunger for the game that he has forced his way back in, with McNamara impressed by his recent fiery displays for table-topping Wigan.

Even a two-match for fighting at the Magic Weekend couldn't dissuade McNamara from recalling Hock. "He is the real strike we have been missing," says McNamara, who called the recent brawl "part of Gareth's game, an aggressive streak that we don't want to lose". Hull's Danny Tickle is rewarded too, with a first call-up since 2009.

The selection of only one "plastic Brit" - Castleford's Maori half-back Rangi Chase - may go some way to appeasing critics of McNamara's policy of selecting his strongest eligible squad regardless of origin. I have spoken to a number of Super League players angered by the move to unearthing talent in Australia, and indeed uncovering Aussie talent in Super League, with British ancestry.

McNamara remains steadfast in his strategy, insisting competition can only make the squad stronger. His detractors claim his policy goes against one of the key reasons for implementing the controversial Super League licensing system - namely allowing the unpressured development of young British talent at clubs without the need to panic-buy foreigners to avoid relegation.

That said Danny Brough is in - a former Scotland international. In my opinion he is the most dangerous scrum-half in the game at the moment and his kicking game will be key against the Exiles.

Of the 12 names to be dropped from the Elite squad for these two games against the Exiles, the best overseas players in Super League, Leeds centre Zak Hardaker and St Helens scrum-half Jonny Lomax may count themselves unlucky. However two in-form Wigan Warriors, in hooker Michael McIlorum and Darrell Goulding, may have been waiting by the phone with a good deal more confidence.

Eyebrows were raised when England football boss Roy Hodgson reacted to Liverpool's woeful season by picking more of their players for Euro 2012 than from any other club.

There is a parallel here with Super League champions Leeds, with half a dozen Rhinos dominating the squad in the midst of one of the club's worst ever Super League seasons. Guaranteed inclusions were skipper Peacock and Ryan Hall as arguably the best winger in the game.

Rob Burrow may have got the nod over McIlorum for his match-winning spark and versatility. McNamara clearly likes the cover that Carl Ablett offers at centre and in the pack, while Wigan fans will have strong claims that Goulding should have taken his spot. Jamie-Jones Buchanan remains one of the game's most dangerous forwards while Kevin Sinfield gets another chance to forge a half-back pairing with Chase.

McNamara's mantra remains continued improvement ahead of the World Cup while he will want to see the team start winning games with style.


  • Comment number 1.

    The likes of Morley and Peacock must be replaced by some of the younger kids in the game, and there are several of them, But what is of concern? is the fact that Gareth Hock is even allowed to play Rugby League again, never mind being part of an England team, He failed a mandatory drug test, therefor should be banned from RL for life!

  • Comment number 2.

    This England team is a strong team with still some strong players left out. I think we can win this test match against the Exiles and hopefully the series. Though I think we should play the next years test series with a game in down south on ANZAC day. It doesn't have to be Wembley but a stadium with a capacity of around 40,000 to 50,000.

  • Comment number 3.

    Think the squad has a well balanced look, Mozza remains one of my fave players of all time but no game time meant selection a no brainer. Still think 6 and 7 remain an issue even as a Rhinos fan dont think Sinfield is the answer, if there was a way of combining Chase and Brough I would go with that option. Roll on the world cup let's win it and get some well deserved media coverage and praise for the great game!

  • Comment number 4.

    Feel sympathy for Morley but he has been great. One of the only players we have who play at 100mph in attack and defence. Can't really argue with the squad. Tom Brisoe and Sam Tomkins are the two most exciting players this season so can't wait to see what they do against the Exiles.

    Watched the cracking game between Souths and Bulldogs last week and was great to see James Graham go head to head with Sam Burgess. What with both players getting rave reviews along with Ellis at the Tigers we really could be seeing the foundations of a great team with players who are used to bashing the Aussies week in week out. The Exiles game is important to test the Super League players but it's the NRL players we should be looking to build on for the World Cup.

  • Comment number 5.

    have great memories of Mozza because he played the game like an Aussie, 100 mph, full of commitment, passion and the will to win, no backward step ever taken. With Sam and Luke Burgess, Graham, Ellis and young Widdup England have the players that exude the same qualities, qualities I'm afraid tha have been absent by and large from English football since the days of Vince karalius and co way back when.

  • Comment number 6.

    Morley's limited performances this year haven't merited a place in the Warrington team, so his omission from an England select should've been expected. However, I can only echo the thoughts of HW19 - What kind of message does it send to youngsters to include Hock? He's not only come back from a drug ban, he has proved all season that he simply cannot control his temper ....... How can you select a player for England when he is suspended from playing for his club because his answer to on-field problems is to lash out with his fists?

  • Comment number 7.

    The England squad is a complete joke and shows how clueless McNamara is. It has not been picked on form and has only been picked on name/reputation. Does he even watch games? Leeds are the best represented club in Super league with 6 players even though they are 9th and even though they have been awful this year, even Leeds fans are baffled at this. Peacock, Sinfield, Jones-Buchanan, Burrow and Ablett have all been poor this season and are either past it or not good enough.

    Average players like Cudjoe have been picked even though fans at Huddersfield want him dropped because he has played that poorly. Even as a Saints fan I am amazed that Wilkin has yet again been picked as he shouldnt even be in the Saints team. Much the same can be said about Carvell.

    Added to this Darrell Goulding, who has been easily the best centre in Super League this year and is the form centre at the moment, hasnt even been picked. Much the same can be said for McIlorum. These players must be baffled as they have outplayed their opposite numbers week in, week out. LMS has also done well at Saints this year and should be in the squad before Wilkin gets near it.

    This is before you even get to the Knights team which is just as big a joke. Full of players who cant even get in their club teams whilst much better players havent been picked at all. Gary Wheeler? Seriously, has McNamara even watched Saints?

    Same old rubbish from McNamara and needless to say same old results when it matters. No wonder people dont take the international game seriously when the coach doesnt even.

  • Comment number 8.

    I have to echo the above comments. The squad certainly doesn't look to have been picked on form, or with an eye to the upcoming world cup. Far too many average players, or those in the twilight of their careers. When we've got so many good up and coming players, why not get them blooded at test level now with a view to them being a cohesive squad when we take on the likes of Australia and New Zealand?

    Goulding should be starting alongside Charnley as their combination this year has been immense, and yet he's not even made the Knights squad! It's a toss up between McIlorum and Roby for the starting hooker role and I can sort of see the logic of dropping one for Burrow.

    The selection of Sinfield at 6 baffles me. Yes he's a solid player, but he's a loose forward in the latter years of his career. Is he just a stop-gap for the mid season games with a view to Widdop being the starting 6 for the future? It would look that way, but if that's the case why did Widdop get so little game time in last year's 4N's?

    I can't help but feel this is a missed opportunity to forge a competitive squad for the next 3 - 5 years.

  • Comment number 9.

    Never saw him as a "modern great" as you said. At best he was an able player with decent vision of the game. But I doubt if he'd have got a regular game for GB in the late 80's & early 90's. There has been a lot less truly top class forwards around in the Super League area & that's why he is seen as a top international player. England won't suffer without him.

  • Comment number 10.

    The problem with England coaches is they insist on keeping the tried but FAILED players each time. There are players, good players, excellent club players and international players. In this country we are limited in the last choice and also insist in playing people " out of position"
    This is all because of the "we can have so many imports" metality of SL clubs who believe that HARD work in development is not effective, it's easier to get a player "of the shelf".
    The WHOLE structure of RL in this country needs changing but the my club, my club mentality will prevent this and I doubt if there ANY chance of it ever beening changed for the benefit of the game as a whole and a better international team.
    The Aussies did it. In this country we just sit on our hands and talk a good development.

  • Comment number 11.

    Picked on Form?
    The "in form" club in SL at the moment are Salford, who dont have a single player in the squad!
    If we are planning for a world cup, then now is the time to blood the younger players and give them a taste of what to expect, not leave them with clubs kicking their heels.
    I am more than happy with McNamara bringing in English talent from down under, because they play the game much faster than we do (something which despite the influx of Aussie coaches, we still cant seem to do...) they are ideally suited to playing in a world cup competition.
    I'd have Hock in, despite past problems. He served his ban & has worked hard to overcome his off field problems.
    Also, I hope there is non of the Booing that was heard at Headingley last year for Mr Tomkins. I was at the game & in the ground you couldnt hear it, but on TV it came over loud and clear.
    Lets back England to beat the Exiles. Last years clash was excellent Rugby League...

  • Comment number 12.

    Note sure why Hock should be 'banned for life' but then again, i don't see why he was suspended in the first place. He took an illegal recreational drug in his spare time so i don't see why the RFL need to get involved.

    If he'd been drink driving in his spare time or assaulting people he wouldn't have been banned for 2 years and wouldn't have to listen to people saying he should never be able to earn a living again playing Rugby again.

  • Comment number 13.

    The reason he was banned was because he took a banned substance, these substances are laid out up front by the RFL and drug testers. If you don't follow the rules you should be banned. That being said the ban length is also laid out and he served his time. I have to agree with a lot of what's being said; Goulding should be in. The back three are very dangerous but who do you drop? Briscoe, Hall, Tomkins or Charnley? Not enough dynamism in the forwards for me, but that will be added by the NRL players. @2 - great idea to play is on/ around ANZAC day, the ex-pats over here would lap it up.

  • Comment number 14.

    Ahh, Mozza was part of my favourite forward pack when playing for GB. Peacock, Morley, Fielden Sculthorpe, Farrell and the like were a great pack. By the time the World Cup comes round the pack should be looking good. Graham, Roby, Hock, Burgess, Ellis, Westwood, Mossop, McIlorum, LMS, and Patrick should all be there or there abouts.

    However, it is the backs that worry me. We seem to lag behind the Aussies in this area. Although Sam Tomkins is exceptional the Aussies can field a whole back line of exceptional players such as Thurston, Inglis, Slater, Cronk who can take it up another gear. Sinfield at half back? No. Knowing McNamara he will play Wilkin there as he puts the occasional bomb up for Saints.

    Not to worry though. I'm looking forward to it. Now I'm off to watch a few YouTube videos of Morley flatenning people throughout the years.

  • Comment number 15.

    Agree with the hock comments and to pick brough a Scot and chase a kiwi just goes to show how blinkered the game is. If it wants to grow once the players pick a nationality they need to stick to it. Same goes for bridge. We have enough English players to pick from. Matty Smith for example could replace brough and no one would bat an eyelid.

  • Comment number 16.

    As a Warrington supporter, I'm glad that Morley hasn't been selected for the England squad. He is a world class league player and to say his 'international days are over' is massively disrespectful! The fact that he hasn't been selected is great news for Warrington as we get our captain back to full fitness and back to great form! #wire

  • Comment number 17.

    Beeg Mozza has had a good innings and it looks as if time has caught up with him. Shame, but then its a hard game and eventually the body says enough.
    As for the rest of the squad? Why are we still trying to think of Sinfield a stand-off? Did nae work and will nae work! And as for Hock getting recalled? So we want another scrap on the park eh? Nice! And what a reward for his misdemeanour's with the nose candy - nice move Mr McNamara...

  • Comment number 18.

    Gareth Hock has a history of playing the game at the edge. There has to be a balance to what is acceptable and what isn´t . I feel he has more to offer to the youngsters because of his experience and therefore should be in the squad!

  • Comment number 19.

    Wish i could get excited about this england team but you just can't! McNamaras strange fascination with playing sinfield at 6 does not, and will not work (proved at last years 4N when widdop should have started). As much as I despise Hock he is without doubt one of englands better forwards and should be there. Goulding should be included, good to see atkins back in the fold. Morley has hardly played this season so its no surprise he's not there, Peacock isnt currently in top form but always raises it for the aussies.

    McIllorum is curently directing a red hot wigan team so it makes him look very very good, playing in an england team going backwards might show him up although happy that Roby wont have to play 80 mins, perhaps this will make him even more dynamic!

  • Comment number 20.

    That's if Burrow is picked on the bench, although can't see McNamara going that way.

  • Comment number 21.

    OK chew this one over? There is room for constructive debate!
    Roby Capt


  • Comment number 22.

    Right now if we played the aussies tomorrow:

    1. Tomkins
    2. Hall
    3. Goulding
    4. Atkins
    5. Briscoe
    6. Widdop
    7. Chase
    8. Burgess
    9. Roby
    10. Graham
    11. Ellis
    12. Hock
    13. Sinfield

    14. McIllorum
    15. Crabtree
    16. Tickle
    17. Patrick

  • Comment number 23.

    Fair Play to Coup1, I forgot about James Graham I would include him at the expense of Carvell, who I would drop to the bench, plus I wouldnt include Chase or Crabtree, Chase does exactly that, and goes up his own backside! vastly over rated. Crabtree lacks the agression needed for the Aussies, Big yes, but not someone who the Aussies wouldnt run at all day.

  • Comment number 24.

    What planet are you on, Riley?

    Jones Buchanan one of the games most dangerous forwards?

    Since when?

  • Comment number 25.

    More great performances from the Leeds has beens, totally shown up again by Warrington. Sinfield at Stand Off? Dont make me laugh, he is not even a Super League Stand Off, never mind international class. McNamara must watch a different game to 99% of RL Fans, if he watched the same games then 5 of that Leeds team wouldnt be in the squad.

  • Comment number 26.

    McIllorum & Goulding should have easily been included. Graham all day for Carvell. Hock is a legend in the making :full stop:

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Wow, we rugby league fans really do love a gripe don't we. Don't think that squad is too different to the best one available. Any squad is going to have one or 2 selection posers that'll cause controversy. Just look at Roy in the footy.

    Given that McNamara can't pick Reed, Burgess, Ellis, Graham and Widdop, doesn't make the Exiles game the best preparation, but given the class of those players, they should slot straight in and useful for Macca to look at some other combinations.

    Really annoys me that the Aussies complain we are not up to their standard and then refuse to release our players to allow us the best possible preparation. Makes the idea of having an Anzac Day Exiles game an excellent one from a player availability perspective (as well as a good idea commercially to have in London), as the Oz V NZ game in the southern hemisphere would free up England players. Macca could therefore give his full team a run out in April and try something more experimental team in the second Exiles game.

  • Comment number 29.

    If we were playing the aussies tomorrow, with all our NRL players available and injury free (living in dream land I know)
    1. Tomkins
    2. Briscoe
    3. Goulding
    4. Reed
    5. Hall
    6. Widdop
    7. Smith/Brough
    8. Luke Burgess
    9. McIllorum
    10. Graham
    11. Sam Burgess
    12. Hock
    13. Ellis


    Now to me that is a pretty decent team, give Heighington and Ellis a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things at wests, has two of the NRL's most influential forwards in Graham and Sam Burgess, with Widdop to control things. The rest of the squad would include guys like O'Loughlin (who is unlucky to miss out), Atkins, Carvell, Charnley and Burrow.

    The one issue I have with Widdop, having watched him play for Storm, is that he is too similar to Tomkins and not used to the playmaking 6 role. Storm use Slater a lot as a first receiver, with Widdop working out in the wider channels, where Sam likes to roam. I'm sure as two talented individuals they could work this out, but they would need the time together to do so

    Having looked at the actual squads, the reason why the exiles will win, unfortunately, is in the 9, 7 and 6 positions, the same reason the aussies win. Leuluai, Dureau and Finch will run the game better than roby, brough, sinfield and probably burrow

  • Comment number 30.

    Like the Anzac Day idea; sounds great. Whilst we're at it, how about aligning the SL calendar when State of Origin is on and play a test or two against the Kiwis at the same time - can't see how even the NRL can refuse to release NZ players if others are allowed to play for Queensland and NSW.

    Just to add that I think Adrian Morley has been a terrific player over the years; his attitude and go-forward will be missed!

  • Comment number 31.

    McNamara painted himself into a corner by naming the finished Jamie Peacock, whose career is in terminal decline, as captain.

    As Leeds have shown this season, you can't play at an elite level with two immobile pensioners in the front row. If Peacock plays (not that he should IMO) then Morley can't.

    As for the number of "plastic Brits", Chris Heighington wouldn't have been released by his club. Otherwise the likes of Ian Henderson, Jack Reed and Gareth Widdop are genuine Brits, all born in the UK before emigrating as youngsters. Referring to them in a derogatory manner in that way is unnecessary.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why do people rate Sinfield? Slow, can't tackle, whinging all the time and is NOT a stand off by ANY definition of the position yet people rate him.

    Warringto just showed how bad is AGAIN but................

    One day, and it's been long since it happened, the best team on merit and current form will be picked for GB/England internationals. Why the declining Leeds team have so many "on form" players included beggars belief but at least , for the time being, the head coach of England is from these shore and has come through the "Coaching" development system as the reults and data prove.

  • Comment number 33.

    Totally agree that there are a few odd selections in the squad. I personally think Goulding should get a run based on his excellent partnerhip with Charnley. Im glad hock is in the squad he has been one of the most destructive players this year and team struggle to control his angled runs and offloads.

    In defence of McNamara I think some of the selections like Sinfield, Ablett, Burrow, Chase are based on them being picked in the squad last year and he is probably trying to develop a bit of consistancy and familiarity in the squad so partnerships and understanding of playing patterns can be formed.

    I think if anything we need to be naming larger squads of 40/50 at the start of the season and getting them together quite frequently so McNamara can see up close who has what skills, who adapts to the structures quicker than others. This way if at the end of a season players start dropping out for operations the next player in line already knows the plays etc.

    For example say Chase is starting 6 it would be good to see Widdop, Pryce, Gaskell, Ratchford even a real young player thats highly rated like Stevie Ward in the train on squad so they can be interchangeable and game plans dont have to change based on the personnel available.

    If I was picking a squad for the exiles game without the NRL players I would have gone for:
    2. Charnley
    3. Goulding
    4. Atkins
    5. Hall
    6. Lomax
    7. Brough
    8. Peacock (c) (not sure about form but he is capt and been there and done it)
    9. Roby
    10. Mossop
    11. Westwood
    12. Hock
    13. O'Loughlin

    14. Pryce
    15. Patrick
    16. Tickle
    17. Lynch/McCarthy-Scarsbrook/Hill (anyone of the 3 deserves a spot really)

    Mccullorm deserves a shirt on form but Roby is a machine and doesnt need resting, Pryce offers more versitility.

  • Comment number 34.

    @32 Sinfield may not be the fastest, strongest or best tackler in the league, and he probably is humble enough to admit that himself. But what he his is an exceptional leader with bags of composure, he is a reliable player who is consistent each week. Not to mention Leeds' most successful captain and highest points scorer.
    His downfall is that he is solid in many positions but not exceptional at one and I will concede that he doesn't have the pace of a stand off and makes a much better ball playing 13


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