It’s time to get behind Steve McNamara.
We’ve all had our say about Danny Brough. We can moan and whinge and snipe from the sidelines as much as we want, but none of it will actually change anything now. The England boss has taken his gamble.
Now all he – or any of us – can do is close our eyes and hope for the best.
McNamara is too stubborn, too committed to squad consistency and too set on the bulk of his starting 13 for that World Cup opener in Cardiff to pay any notice to the calls for Brough or whoever else.
In lots of ways, that’s a good thing. He isn’t there to be a fan or a pundit. He’s there to make a decision, believe in it and stick with it. He’s putting all his trust in certain players and hoping to get rewards – and plenty of them – when it matters.
We’ll know whether he got it right or catastrophically wrong come the end of November.
And if he gets it wrong, it’ll almost certainly cost him his job.
So now, nine days out from the Exiles game and just under five months before the World Cup kicks off, it’s time to start acknowledging that we’re in the strongest position we’ve been for a long, long time.
McNamara’s named a pretty solid squad for next week’s match, but there are still plenty of people missing.
Consider the England team that will run out at the Halliwell Jones, and imagine it playing the following bunch, made entirely of England players who are unavailable, injured or simply not selected for next week:
Ratchford; Briscoe, Watkins, Reed, Dixon; Widdop, McGuire; Graham, McIlorum, G Burgess, Hock, Ablett, S Burgess.
All those omitted players will, injuries permitting, be available come the World Cup.
And there are still others that might come into the mix, including the likes of Luke Burgess and Chris Heighington.
Maybe my mind’s playing tricks on me, but has England ever – certainly since the advent of Super League – had as many options in as many different positions as they do now?
McNamara can only pick 17 men. He’ll never name a side that everybody will agree on – that’s sport.
But whatever you think of McNamara, his selections or the Exiles game, the World Cup is coming – and it’s time to start pulling in the same direction, for England’s sake.
Congratulations to Brett Ferres, who undoubtedly deserved his call-up for the Exiles match.
He’s been in brilliant form this year and will offer something different next week.
He still has a huge task if he is to force his way into the World Cup squad, with competition fierce throughout the pack, but his mid-season recognition is likely to be a big bonus for Huddersfield – he’s likely to play out of his skin for the rest of the season if he thinks there’s even a glimmer of hope come October.
Any thoughts on England, the Exiles match or Steve McNamara? Let us know in the comments box below.
You can follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough