Adrian Morley had it all mapped out. After the match against France at Salford, he was set to announce his retirement from international rugby.
“I was thinking ‘35 years old, playing in my home town, the time could be right’,” says the England prop forward.
“But a voice in my ear was saying ‘Hang on. Once you retire that’s it.’ If you’re playing well enough and your country wants you, it’s your duty to put your hand up.”
There were times playing for Warrington this season when Morley could not see himself making it to next autumn’s World Cup, in which case this would have been a logical time to call it a day and concentrate on the remaining year of his contract with the Wolves.
He was no longer guaranteed a starting place in the Warrington pack and was left out of the England squad that played the Exiles twice this summer.
He could have taken that as a hint. Instead, Morley took it as a challenge. He played a major role for his club – albeit often from the bench – in the latter stages of the season and won back his England place for the autumn internationals.
“I was thinking it was going to be very tough to make the World Cup next autumn,” he says. “Now I feel like giving it a go.”
The World Cup in England and Wales is the whole raison d’etre for the mini-tournament that has been quietly taking place 12 month in advance.
Nobody seriously expected Wales or tomorrow’s opponents in the final, France, to beat England, but the competition, coming straight after altitude training in South Africa, has given Steve McNamara a month with his squad that could prove invaluable when the serious business starts.
Among the younger players who have put down a marker are Morley’s Warrington team-mate, Chris Hill, who has won his first two caps and looked anything but out of place.
Morley has taken his young rival under his wing in his first season with the club and says he is delighted but not surprised by his rapid progress.
One thing he has probably told his protégé is to not try to emulate his own, wilder younger days. He chronicles his excesses in his autobiography, Moz: My Story, published today.
“There were some things I did early in my career that I’m not proud of now,” he says. “But there are other things I’m very proud of.”
Playing in a World Cup at 36 would certainly be in the latter category, so Morley will be trying, against a French pack that includes some genuine hard nuts, this evening to show that he still has plenty to offer.
The other local connection at Salford belongs to the England scrum-half, Richie Myler. He played for the City Reds between being lost to his broke home-town club, Widnes, and being sold to Warrington for a record fee for a teenager.
He has gone a long way towards establishing himself as the regular England number seven this autumn and is again preferred tomorrow to last year’s Man of Steel, Rangi Chase.
The French have called up three new players in place of those injured when the two sides met at Hull KR last weekend, including Cyril Stacul, who was knocked out by a tackle for which Gareth Ellis has escaped suspension.Reuse content