Scotland coach on World Cup prep, NRL players & confirmed friendly

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Love Rugby League caught up with Scotland head coach Nathan Graham to discuss their preparations ahead of the Rugby League World Cup.

Scotland will face Fiji, Italy and 2017 winners Australia in Group B of the World Cup tournament.

The Bravehearts kick-off their tournament on Sunday 16 October against Italy at Newcastle’s Kingston Park, their base for the campaign. They will also play their final group fixture against Fiji two weeks later at the same venue. In between, Graham’s side face the Kangaroos in Coventry.

While Scotland have no mid-season international test, Graham has confirmed that work is underway and a friendly has been lined up ahead of the tournament’s opener.

“We’re underway with preparations,” he told Love Rugby League.

“Piecing the squad together is difficult, the main thing is the inability to get everybody together. Super League players have their break at a different time to Championship players, plus we’ve got some overseas players coming over. 

“It’s difficult, we’re limited to online type of stuff regarding to speaking to people and meetings and that type of thing.

“We did look at having a friendly in the international break, but because of people who would be available and who wouldn’t, (we didn’t).

“It would have been great to get a Scotland game in mid-season, but we thought how beneficial is it in terms of World Cup preparations as in the personnel we’ve got there. We’ve got a friendly lined up just before we go into camp at the beginning of October.”

NRL players set to represent Scotland

Euan Aitken Scotland Dolphins SWpix Credit: PA Images
Euan Aitken in action for Scotland in the 2016 Four Nations | Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix

Scotland will have several players from the NRL representing the side for the upcoming World Cup tournament. Dolphins-bound Euan Aitken (pictured above) represented the side in 2016 during the Four Nations tournament, and Graham will also be hoping to have the likes of Super League’s Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett and James Bell. The trio have all previously represented the country and qualify through heritage.

“There are some names from the NRL,” Graham told Love Rugby League. “We’re looking at a few people from the NRL who are starting week in, week out.

“We’ve got three that have committed already, so we’re pretty pleased with that so far.

“We have got a limited player pool, so when World Cups come around and you are allowed to pick from overseas and especially NRL players, it’s a boost.”

‘They’ve got to be the right person’

He continued: “We do a lot of research on the guys themselves. There has been some big names that have put themselves forward. But when we’ve done our homework, they’ve not really wanted to buy into what we’re about.

“They’ve got to be the right person and the reason why they want to represent Scotland. It’s not just getting anyone who qualifies. There’s got to be a reason why for these people to represent Scotland.”

On Coote and Linnett, Graham added: “Kane Linnett is out at the moment, but he’s hoping to be back for the last month of the season which will be good because he’ll get game time and back up to speed.

“They’re in this country already and are two quality players who have represented Scotland already and know what it’s all about. If they’re available and everything works out fine, they’ll be in.”

Danny Houghton?

Danny Houghton Hull FC Credit: PA Images
Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton in his 400th career appearance

One player who often gets thrown into the mix for Scotland is Hull hooker Danny Houghton. The 33-year-old has previously flirted with the idea of representing his heritage through his grandad.

However, Graham has confirmed that Houghton has ruled himself out of the the international scene with the Bravehearts.

He said: “I spoke to Danny Houghton last year and he said he doesn’t want to do any international stuff. He enjoys his time off with his family and I said that’s fair enough.

“I don’t want to force anyone into it. It’s got to be their choice and them wanting to do it for the right reason.” 

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