MCCLENNAN BACKS SUPER LEAGUE & ENGLISH PLAYERS
Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McClennan has warned against a "knee-jerk reaction" to England’s World Cup flop.
Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McClennan has warned against a "knee-jerk reaction" to England’s World Cup flop. McClennan, a former coach of the Kiwi national side, reckons New Zealand’s stunning victory over Australia in last weekend’s final proved that international success is all about playing well in the big games. The Leeds coach feels England’s poor World Cup campaign, which saw them lose two of their three group games and then crash out to New Zealand at the semi-final stage, was a case of them under-performing on the day, rather than an indictment of the engage Super League competition as a whole. England’s failure has led to calls for a cut in the number of overseas players in Super League and sparked a debate over whether the game here should adopt the slower style of play used in Australia’s NRL. But McClennan – who guided Rhinos to Grand Final glory in his first year in charge – told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "People don’t need to be panicking about the game here. It’s heading in the right direction. "The simple matter is, you have to perform right on the day. Unfortunately for England that didn’t happen, but the game here is healthy. "It’s true there needs to be more put into the development of young men in the game, but they are getting things in place to do that." McClennan added: "Super League is improving every year. Saturday (New Zealand’s victory) proved that when it comes to big games you just have to perform to the best of your ability on the day. "Had England made the final and played to the best of their ability, they could have got the result too. They have got the ability, I know that 100 per cent. "I coached the Kiwis and I have coached the Leeds boys and I have seen the ability of the players. "These England boys are outstanding talents and I know that Leeds could play any team in the world and give them a good run for their money. They are very, very talented. "The top teams in Super League could all compete in the NRL. St Helens and Leeds could go down and play any team in the NRL and beat them on a given day." The World Club Challenge annual showdown between the Super League and NRL champions has been dominated by British sides, who have won seven of the nine games since the series was revived in 2000 – including the last five. Critics claim that is due to matches being stage in this country, before the NRL competition has kicked off, but McClennan said: "If you are going to take those factors into account, you should take them into account at the end of the year too. "They say Australian clubs coming up here early in the year is against them, well turn it around and say that for the English team, who go down there at the end of the year having had a longer season and played more games. You can’t have it both ways." McClennan is fiercely opposed to clubs in Super League adopting an NRL-style of play. "I think we need to keep the English-style of game," he said. "The last thing we should do is go towards the NRL style of game. "Even people down there know that the ruck has slowed up the game and made it too predictable. We need to keep a bit of unpredictability about the game. "We are heading in the right direction and there doesn’t need to be any knee-jerk reactions here." McClennan was in charge of the Kiwis when they stunned Australia in the 2005 Tri-Nations final. He also coached them in 2006, when they lost the final to the Kangaroos in extra-time. Of Saturday’s game, McClennan – who admitted to tears of joy at the result – said: "It’s really good for the game internationally and it’s important that people know that in rugby league, in big games, anything can happen. "Underdogs can get up and win. Look at Castleford last season, they beat St Helens and Leeds, the two teams that played in the Grand Final. That’s good for the game. "I think it’s important people know that in rugby league the favourites don’t just always run away with games. It proves that we have got a great game. "If teams turn up to a game in the right frame of mind, they can win."