Steve McNamara: Elliott Whitehead will make a big impression in raid on Canberra


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The Independent Online

Steve McNamara, the England coach, is tipping Elliott Whitehead to become the next Super League player to take the Australasian NRL by storm.

The 25-year-old second rower, who was given his England debut by McNamara in the 2014 Four Nations Series, will join a host of his international team-mates Down Under next season after signing a two-year deal with Canberra Raiders.

Whitehead has been a big success for the Catalan Dragons and McNamara believes he could also become a major hit in the Australian capital.

“I’ve had a chat with Elliott about his move and I think it’s good for him,” McNamara said. “It will be a challenge for him, as it is for every player, but he’s got elements to his game that will be really good and will improve in the NRL. I think he’ll stand out.”

The former Bradford player is the Dragons’ only ever-present this year and has missed only five out of a possible 59 matches since he made the move to Perpignan two years ago.

He will be aiming to continue his impressive form when the Catalans host in-form Hull today, with the Black and Whites’ coach, Lee Radford, eagerly anticipating the second-row duel between Whitehead and Zeb Taia and his own experienced duo of Mark Minichiello and captain Gareth Ellis.

“As a rugby league fan, Minichiello against Whitehead is a match-up I’m really looking forward to,” Radford said. “Like us, they have a fantastic back row so it’s a key area, for sure. Taia is arguably one of the best players in the competition but, if there was one player in our squad that I would like to put up against him, it would be our leader and captain in Gaz.

“It’s an exciting prospect and I’m just hoping that we can come out on top as I feel that will have big implications on the result.”

Hull have travelled to Perpignan on a high after picking up eight wins from their last 10 games in all competitions and a victory at Stade Gilbert Brutus would help cement their place in the Super League’s top eight ahead of their back-to-back fixtures with Leeds.

Radford has his threequarters Setaimata Sa and Fetuli Talanoa back from injury while winger Tom Lineham, who announced this week he is to join Warrington next season, has been left out for personal reasons.

The Dragons have Damien Cardace, Thomas Bosc and Ben Garcia back from injury, but winger Michael Oldfield has joined Todd Carney, Vincent Duport and Willie Tonga on the injury list.