The stars of Super League and Australia’s NRL will descend on Cumbria on Friday when Scotland arrive to play a warm-up game ahead of the Ladbrokes Four Nations tournament.
Scotland coach Steve McCormack, the former Barrow Raiders and Whitehaven boss, has vowed to field every fit player at Barrow’s Craven Park on Friday evening in Liam Harrison’s Testimonial as Scotland face a Cumbrian Select XIII. That includes Super League Grand Final winner Lewis Tierney of Wigan Warriors and runner-up Matty Russell of Warrington, as well as Scotland’s NRL stars.
“I intend giving everyone some game time on Friday as it’s our only chance to see combinations in action before the Australia game,” explained McCormack. “Training is not the same as playing so it’s important we see if we can transfer what we’ve worked on in training this week onto the field. We’ve quite a few lads who’ve not played for a month either so they need some game time. One or two others played in the Grand Final or Championship finals so are just easing themselves back into action this week but they’ll get some minutes too.”
Those who have not played since the regular season ended in mid-September have had a week or two off before starting a fitness programme, including working out with Scotland teammates in cluster groups. Those in play-off action have had a similar rest period but all are back in full training this week in Edinburgh.
Most of the Australian contingent flew into Edinburgh on Sunday – North Queensland Cowboys duo Kane Linnett and Lachlan Coote, Billy McConnachie (from Brisbane) and Sheldon Powe-Hobbs (Cairns), Euan Aitken of St George and Tyler Cassel from Sydney’s Wests Tigers. Prop Luke Douglas, who joins St Helens from Gold Coast Titans next month, does not arrive until Friday having been given extra time due to the recent arrival of his first baby, Archibald Buster Douglas.
McCormack is expected to field a half-back partnership of Huddersfield Giants team-mates Danny Brough and Ryan Brierley, with Coote at full-back and former Workington dual-reg flier Tierney and Russell on opposite wings, but also has the option of playing Coote at stand-off and either Tierney, Russell or Dave Scott at full-back. Leigh Centurions hooker Liam Hood is expected to start at no.9 with Workington youngster Callum Phillips and Rochdale’s uncapped Ryan Maneely as the back-up hookers.
Other Cumbrian connections are Phillips’ older brother, Town second-rower Brett; Widnes forward Sam Brooks, who spent much of last season with Whitehaven; London centre Ben Hellewell, who played at Barrow as a youngster on loan from Warrington; and St Helens-bound prop Adam Walker, who spent most of 2013 on loan spell at Barrow from Hull KR.
Scotland are based at Heriot-Watt University’s stunning new Oriam Performance Centre this week, utilizing the giant indoor dome to train in the dry while the rain teemed down outside. They have a photo shoot at Edinburgh Castle today (Wednesday) and will train at Oriam again on Thursday before travelling down to Furness on Friday morning. The squad will have a pre-match meal at Newby Bridge and play the Cumbrian XIII at 7pm. They then move on to their base in Preston to prepare for the clash with Australia a week on Friday in Hull.
They return to Cumbria for their final round-robin game against New Zealand at Workington’s Zebra Claims Stadium on 11 November.