Scotland coach Steve McCormack is preparing for the arrival of his NRL stars on Thursday to add the final ingredients to what he hopes is a winning mix at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. The 10-year veteran coach oversaw his first training session of the campaign on Sunday and enjoyed the combination of new talent and experienced stars at his disposal.
"It's a pleasure to get the players together," he told ScotlandRL.com. "As in previous years, they've been superb. We have policy of leaving egos at the door, a 'no big heads' policy – everybody mucks in, whether you've just won Man of Steel or if you're someone who's winning their first cap. They're a brilliant bunch of lads."
Despite several withdrawals due to injury, Scotland's squad looks as strong as any of the mid-ranking teams at RLWC2013 and McCormack, who masterminded the 2008 World Cup campaign, believes it is capable of an upset or two.
"It's arguably one of best squads Scotland have ever had – there are some exciting young players, like David Scott, who's come through the Scottish player development pathway, and Callum Phillips, who's had a fantastic first season at Workington, to the likes of Danny Brough, Dale Ferguson and the NRL players. It's a really exciting squad that I've got to work with and I'm expecting big things."
The NRL stars – Brisbane Broncos star Peter Wallace, Gold Coast prop Luke Douglas and North Queensland centre Kane Linnett – only arrive on Thursday morning at Manchester airport but are expected to train with their new team-mates that afternoon at Featherstone and recover in time to play some part against Papua New Guinea in Scotland's only warm-up game on Saturday at Big Fellas Stadium.
"We'll see how they cope," admitted McCormack. "It's a long journey from Australia but we've sent things over to help them deal with jet-lag and they're quite experienced players. I've no doubt they'll be welcomed by the coaching staff and players. We've done our research on them – we know they are quality players and, more importantly, quality people, so I'm sure they'll fit in."
Scotland face a PNG side for the first time ever, one that has more than a sprinkling of NRL stars and Super League regulars, and is coached by the former Wigan legend Adrian Lam. "It's doesn't get much tougher," claims McCormack. "A week after PNG we're playing Tonga so it's going to be as physical as is gets. They're going to be one of the most physical sides you can face in world rugby league. They're perfect opposition ahead of the Tonga game and will be very well coached with high expectations. I think it will be an outstanding game."