Who cares about the England Elite Training squad?

Congratulations to Ben Cockayne for making England’s elite training squad. But really, who cares?

It’s a squad that doesn’t mean anything. There’s only one England squad that matters this year, and it’s the one that Steve McNamara picks for the World Cup.

Until then, the rest is just fluff.

It’s great that England’s players continue to develop McNamara’s ‘two-team’ mindset, where the national side is just as important as their club employers.

McNamara’s other notable achievement appears to be the eradicating of the club cliques that used to dominate England camps – witness the 2008 World Cup.

But fans have already made up their minds about the Exiles fixture – they largely aren’t interested – and until October 26, all eyes will remain on club rugby instead. Those of us who champion international rugby league might not like it, but that’s the way it is.

The most depressing thing about Phil Veivers’ sacking was its utter predictability.

Veivers was a dead man walking from the moment Marwan Koukash strolled through the doors at Salford brandishing a fistful of cash and a head full of unrealistic ambition.

If he sticks around long enough, Koukash will almost certainly turn Salford into a genuine force.

But the dismissal of Veivers was crass and naïve. Veivers wasn’t Salford’s biggest problem. He wasn’t even in the top two.

A relatively weak squad, and a pre-season so disrupted that six players signed for the club just two days before the season began, meant the Reds were never going to be challenging at this stage of the campaign.

Tim Sheens has been widely linked with the job, and if he’s privately shown Salford even the slightest hint of interest they will surely do everything they can to land him.

But, regardless of who is brought in, the Reds will continue to struggle for the rest of this season because they just don’t have the players.

The only positive about Koukash’s actions is that he might force others within the game to look at their own modi operandi.

Rugby league is a small world. Too many chairmen and administrators value loyalty and friendships above a ruthless ability to get the job done. They settle for mediocrity because it’s comfortable and unthreatening.

Koukash has just shown exactly where he sits on that one. 

What’s happened to St Helens?

Against Leeds they made more clean breaks, more offloads, fewer missed tackles and fewer errors than the Rhinos. They also had a higher completion rate, a higher tackle success rate and a higher proportion of quick play-the-balls – and they still lost.

Statistics are utterly meaningless if you don’t have enough creativity and zip to back them up. Warrington will be licking their lips. If the Wolves bare their teeth, Friday could be particularly uncomfortable for an already under-pressure Nathan Brown.

On that note, is Friday gearing up as one of Super League’s best ever?

Away from Warrington v St Helens, there’s also Leeds v Huddersfield and Wigan v Catalan.  And that’s without even mentioning Bradford’s trip to Widnes and Hull’s clash with Castleford.

All five of those games are difficult to call, with Brown and Peter Gentle both under enormous strain little more than a month into the new season. 

Any comments? Drop them in the box below. You can also follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough

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