Yates’ verdict: Club before country?

England's coach Wayne Bennett talks with James Graham
England's coach Wayne Bennett talks with James Graham
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An act of suicide or a sensible conclusion? Like many observers, I simply can't make up my mind whether the RL's decision to abandon plans for a warm weather England players' training camp in Dubai is a good or bad idea.

There are both plus and minus points - and one can argue until the cows come home without reaching a logical verdict.

What it does show is that Super League coaches, in general, feel club football is more important than success at international level and that the RL authorities buckled at the knees when confronted by what can best be described as a mini-revolt among its members.

No one was more vociferous than Saints' coach Keiron Cunningham in condemning the plan, stressing that he was in danger of losing a small number of his players at what he believed constituted a key period of training in the build up to Super League XXII.

I have a great deal of sympathy for his take on the issue but at the same time would ask if losing possibly two or three players at most from his first team squad would have been highly detrimental to Saints' preparations at home - and other clubs in a similar boat.

Not only would these players have enjoyed the benefit of training in sunnier climes but return home, however short the trip, in slightly better condition than when they left these shores.

It reminded me of a point Saints' skipper Jon Wilkin made during an interview last year when we were discussing why the Australians were still light years ahead of ourselves on the rugby field.

Wilkin said: “They are able to prepare for a season in much better climatic conditions than ourselves and can spend most of the time outside - and in a better environment - developing their skills.”

What is also interesting when reading numerous other articles on the rights or wrongs of the cancelled camp, I didn't come across any which featured comments from players nailed on to make the squad.

Mind you, this doesn't surprise me. Could you image Jonny Lomax and Mark Percival - two Saints' players odds on to make the trip - coming out and saying 'we'd love to go and it will be of great benefit to us in the long term' when their head coach made it crystal clear he was opposed to the venture!

Neither will there be any one more disappointed at the outcome than my long-time media colleague Ray French who has been banging on the drum until he is blue in the face for goodness knows how many years in a bid to enhance the profile of international rugby in this country.

On the global stage, Rugby League is now lagging way behind the 15-a-side code when promoting international football - jam-packed stadiums, media attention and superior presentation tell their own story - and some may argue that denying England a training and bonding opportunity in the United Arab Emirates is a backward step and can't help new coach Wayne Bennett's

attempts to build a squad to challenge the masters from Down Under The kick and clap brigade will no doubt be laughing their socks off and they have every right to!