Scotland have been struck a blow with the news that NRL star Peter Wallace is out of the upcoming World Cup through injury. The Penrith Panthers hooker or halfback appeared in the NRL play-offs with three broken ribs and a broken hand, injuries which must now be treated and the time required for recuperation has ruled Wallace out of the tournament.
Scotland coach Steve McCormack has faced challenges in the hooker department since the end of the 2013 World Cup after which all three hookers - brothers Ian and Andrew Henderson and Ben Fisher - retired. For the past three campaigns the hooking role has been shared by Liam Hood, who played this season in Super League for Leigh Centurions, Workington Town pivot Callum Phillips - who came off the bench to great effect against England last year, and even Hull KR utility player Danny Addy.
“It’s disappointing we won’t have Peter as he is a class act but we have managed without him for the last three years and done well,” admitted McCormack. “We have some very talented hookers and just like when anyone gets injured, an opportunity opens up for someone else. There are several players in our squad who got their first opportunity because of injury to another player and they took it with both hands.”
McCormack is expected to name at least one other senior hooker with considerable Super League and international experience to join Hood in the number nine role.
“We’ve had to regenerate the squad before and people will see some new players in this squad, too,” revealed McCormack. “It’s normal. We had it in 2008 and we had it after 2013, losing all three hookers - Fisher, Henderson, Henderson. We’ve built three teams for three World Cups and that’s been quite smooth really.”
Scotland have managed to attract eligible players from elite NRL and Super League clubs due to the positive responses current Bravehearts take away with them after an international camp. North Queensland Cowboys pair Kane Linnett and Lachlan Coote are expected to be named in Scotland's squads after playing in last Sunday's NRL Grand Final defeat to Melbourne Storm.
“The best-selling point are our players, who go back to their clubs having had a good experience and played against the world’s best,” said McCormack, who coaches at Wigan Warriors. “I think a lot is to do with recruitment. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the squad. It’s a bit of an obsession to be honest! I’m obsessed with making Scotland as good as we can be and improve year-in, year-out. I’ve got very good staff and I’m lucky in that Dave Rotheram and, until he had to step back recently, John Duffy, have done a lot of work that goes unnoticed. But I should think our backroom staff are fed up of me sending them Whats App messages at two o’clock in the morning!”
Scotland will announce their World Cup squad on Tuesday morning. They fly out to Brisbane on Sunday 15 October to set up camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Lennox Heads and play New South Wales Country Under-23s at Ballina on Friday 20 October. They then head up to their tournament base in Cairns the following day. The Bravehearts’ opening match is against Tonga in Cairns on Sunday 29 October (8.15am kick off UK time) before they head to Christchurch to play New Zealand on Saturday 4 November and return for their final group B game in Cairns against Samoa on Saturday 11 November.