England's Four Nations campaign has got off to the worst possible start with their captain, Adrian Morley, set to miss the tournament after rupturing a biceps. Morley was sent for a scan after suffering the injury in the sixth minute of the 18-18 draw with the New Zealand Maori on Saturday in a warm-up match for the tournament and the worst fears were confirmed. His Warrington team-mate Garreth Carvell last night flew out as a replacement.
"I'm absolutely gutted and I'm still coming to terms with it," said Morley, whose durability in the most confrontational of positions was expected to be a major plus for England on this tour.
"I've been around long enough to know that injuries are part of every sportsman's life, but this one has left me devastated. As soon as it happened, I knew it was serious. It was just an accidental knock on the arm, but the pain was excruciating."
Morley will fly home as soon as possible for an operation which should have him fit for the start of the next Super League season. His departure leaves England having to decide who to appoint as captain, with Sean O'Loughlin and Gareth Ellis the obvious candidates. Morley was already a stand-in for Jamie Peacock, who has a long-term knee injury. Kevin Sinfield, another possible candidate for the captaincy, did not tour because of a persistent groin problem.
Morley's injury and Sam Tomkins' groin strain can only heighten the concerns that have already emerged from England's deeply uneven performance in Auckland on Saturday. There were some good things from them, especially in the first half and in the impact made by players coming off the bench.
Eorl Crabtree was firmly in offload mode; all three of the first-half tries owed something to his ability to slip the ball out of the tackle. "I was just pleased to be able to make an impact," said the Huddersfield Giant. "They weren't all the greatest, but luckily they led to tries. I probably forced one or two when I shouldn't have after that, but it was important to do something because we were already without Moz."
Crabtree is one of those who will need to take on extra responsibility in Morley's absence. His Huddersfield team-mate, Luke Robinson, who postponed his wedding to go on this tour, had a dream start to his England career, pouncing on a ball from Crabtree and setting up the second try for Tomkins.
"I'm a very proud Englishman, so to make a start like that was fantastic," he said. "I just wanted to get out there and show what I could do."
The England coach, Steve McNamara, pointed out that, as good as they were in the first half, the Giants duo shared in the general tailing off in the second. The biggest failing against the resurgent Maori, however, was some naive wide defence; that needs to be rectified urgently if it is not to be exploited by the full Kiwi side on Saturday.
McNamara cited the strains of travel, and of preparing under the misplaced assumption that they would be able to use all their squad, as explanations rather than excuses for their collapse into a second 18-all draw in two weeks.