Scully’s ‘foreign’ England blast

GB Paul Sculthorpe. picture Gerald Webster
GB Paul Sculthorpe. picture Gerald Webster

ST Helens legend and former Great Britain skipper Paul Sculthorpe yesterday blasted the inclusion of overseas players in the England squad.

Scully believes it is not the way forward if the newly-crowned Gillette Four Nations title winners, Australia, are to be knocked off their lofty perch.

Coach Steve McNamara named New South Wales-born Chris Heighington, of Melbourne Storm, and Kiwi Rangi Chase, of Castleford Tigers, in his tournament squad, but it is an avenue the 34-year-old former GB and England international would not have gone down.

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Sculthorpe, who enjoyed a trophy-laden career at St Helens after moving from Warrington in a £300,000 record-breaking deal for a forward in 1997, said: “Whenever I pulled on a shirt for my country it filled me with pride and passion and I’m convinced that kind of feeling cannot be the same for anyone who comes from overseas.”

He said: “I’m totally against the idea but in this day and age it seems all sports are doing the same, seeking a quick fix by selecting players with either family links with the country of their choice or residency qualification rather than planning for a long-term future by using entirely home-grown talent.”

McNamara’s squad also included Brisbane’s Jack Reed and a second Melbourne player Gareth Widdop who were both born in Yorkshire but have played all their first grade rugby in Australia.

Sculthorpe - the only player to win the Man of Steel award in successive years - added: “What I would like to see is Rugby League build from its youth base which includes such precocious talents as Wigan’s Sam Tomkins and Saints’ Jonny Lomax.

“It may take a number of years to develop fully but the end product is likely to be better and more successful than adopting a short-term policy and failing to progress.”

Sculthorpe, who played four times for England and on 26 occasions for Great Britain and is currently Saints’ business development manager, wasn’t exactly enamoured by Saturday’s Elland Road Final in which Australia stormed to as 30-8 victory, scoring four of their five tries in a blistering 22-minute second-half spell.

“Personally, I thought it was a poor game and didn’t live up to its pre-match billing.

“Australia didn’t scale the heights of which they are capable of achieving but they were still far too good for England who, while showing signs of improvement the longer the tournament progressed have still a long road ahead if they are one day to regain the number one spot in world Rugby League.

“At the same time you have also got to remember that Rugby League is Australia’s national sport, just like soccer over here, and they have a far bigger pool of players than us to select from.

“They could probably pick two separate teams good enough to take on any other country.”

Sculthorpe singled out Saints’ prop James Graham as possibly England’s top performer but it will be little consolation to Graham judging by the disappointment which was etched on his face after the final hooter.

Graham, who is now heading Down Under next month to pursue his career with the Canterbury Bulldogs, said: “It is hard to put my finger on the reason we lost.

“We only trailed by two points at the interval and I am convinced we could have gone on to win the match.

“We hadn’t played too well in the first half but we were still in with a shout, only to allow a big opportunity to slip through our grasp.”