DARYL POWELL has backed Castleford Tigers’ Man of Steel Luke Gale to “grow” as an England player.
The talented scrum-half has just enjoyed the best season of his career so far having starred for the West Yorkshire club as they earned a first-ever League Leaders’ Shield and also reached a maiden Grand Final.
Although they lost to Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford, Gale claimed Man of Steel as the domestic competition’s best player and then went on to play every minute of England’s World Cup campaign.
The 29-year-old helped guide the international side to a first World Cup final since 1995 but ultimately was powerless to prevent a 6-0 loss against reigning champions Australia.
Gale, who only made his Test debut last year, kicked well in the first half but, like the rest of his side’s creative players, was unable to break down the Kangaroos’ stubborn defence as England pressed hard for an historic win.
Typically, questions have been raised about whether he is the right man for the crucial playmaking job but Powell is a firm believer in the No7.
He needs to build on his outstanding season here with another one and then keep himself in that form. I’m sure he’ll continue to grow as a player at the very top level.Castleford coach Daryl Powell on Luke Gale
“He did some good things,” he said, as the national side’s wait for a first World Cup win since 1972 continues.
“I think he’ll have wanted to play consistently better but I do think it was a tough job; as a half-back at the very, very top level it is. I do feel he’ll learn from the experiences, though, and get better for them.
“That’s what it’s about. He needs to build on his outstanding season here with another one and then keep himself in that form. I’m sure he’ll continue to grow as a player at the very top level.”
Powell speaks from experience having himself represented both England and Great Britain as a stand-off.
Indeed, admittedly as a centre, he was in the Great Britain side that beat the Kangaroos at Wembley in 1990 and again in Melbourne two years later.
The ex-Leeds coach explained: “I was fortunate enough to play international football and it’s never like playing for your own club.
“But, if you look at Australia on Saturday, they had three of the world’s best players there in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater who all play together for club, country and state.
“They are all rep’ players and that gives them something slightly different to us.
“The relationships our guys were building were newer, though, and that takes time.
“There was still so much to love about this World Cup with England. But it was the real finer detail of quality and getting over the line where we fell down as a side. We’re not far off, though, are we?”
There has been some suggestions the England side needs its half-backs to operate in the NRL to enable them to produce under the sort of intense pressure that was exerted on them by the Green and Golds.
However, Powell – tipped by many to become England’s next coach if Australian Wayne Bennett does stand down – is not a fan of that idea.
“I think if we had everyone playing in the NRL they’d all be playing the Australian way rather than our own,” he said.
“Do we really want that? Our half-backs should be allowed to be a little different so I wouldn’t say playing them in the NRL is a good idea.”