England rugby league coach Steve McNamara has opened the door for Sydney-born forward Adam Cuthbertson.
The 30-year-old Cuthbertson, who has made a big impact in his first season in Super League with Leeds, qualifies for England through his Warrington-born father and has made no secret of his desire to represent his newly-adopted country.
McNamara, who gave an England debut to New Zealand-born Rangi Chase in 2011, revealed to a media briefing in Manchester on Friday that he has made contact with Cuthbertson but insists he would have to meet strict criteria.
“There’s a lot of players who qualify to play for England for one reason or another, but it’s really important we keep the identity of the England team,” McNamara said.
“We’re not a country that every World Cup cycle is going to try and find a load of players from the NRL (in Australia) just to strengthen the team. The England identity is paramount.
“We’re always looking at ways to improve our playing squad and, if a player like Adam was available for England, wanted to play for England, was performing really well and we were convinced that he wanted to do it for the right reasons, that he was genuine about that, then we would consider that selection.”
McNamara, the former Bradford coach who is now an assistant at Sydney Roosters, is on a week-long visit to the UK to finalise plans for the October Test series against New Zealand.
That included a trip to the Football Association’s St George’s Park training facility in Staffordshire, where England will set up camp in October, and a get-together with his squad.
That group included the Super League-based players involved in the 2014 Four Nations Series, along with four uncapped players who have long been identified as future internationals.
John Bateman, 21, of Wigan, Warrington’s Ben Currie, 20, and Leeds duo Stevie Ward, 21, and Liam Sutcliffe, 20, are being earmarked for the 2017 World Cup but could come into contention for the Kiwis series.
“Those four young boys really fit the bill for us,” McNamara said. “I’m really happy with the group we’ve got.
“It’s a young squad who are all going to be available for a lot of years to come. There’s only probably Sean O’Loughlin who is the wrong side of 30.”
The players will have another get-together in August before he names his squad after October’s Grand Final.
New Zealand will arrive in England as the top-ranked team in the game following their emphatic win over Australia in the ANZAC Test earlier this month and McNamara believes they are worthy of the tag.
“I thought they were way too good for Australia on the day,” McNamara said.
“They were by far the best team, too athletic, too powerful.”
The Kiwis will warm up for the three-match series with a game against Leeds at Headingley the night before England launch their autumn international program against France at Leigh Sports Village.