The former Great Britain coach Brian Noble said yesterday that the Four Nations has exposed the unpalatable truth that Super League is getting worse rather than better.
Noble, who coached the national side from 2004-6 and is in Australasia with the BBC, said that England's failure here is the reflection of a domestic game that is going backwards. "I just don't think it's as good as it was," he said. "I don't think the best teams in Super League now would have a chance against the Bradford and St Helens teams of a few years ago."
For that he partly blames a salary cap that reduces the spending of the top clubs, without doing anything to improve the lower ones. "You finish up with the lowest common denominator," Noble said.
After seeing England lose to New Zealand and Australia, he said: "We aren't producing outside backs and we aren't producing half-backs. In fact, there aren't enough numbers playing the game and we need to find ways of attracting more, [either] from rugby union or elsewhere. You'll always be able to attract some, because this is such a great game to watch and play – and when people try it, they love it."
Despite the presence of players from outside the league heartlands in this squad, Noble said there are neither enough of them were through nor enough of the right standard from the traditional league areas. "It's not good enough to say that the average age of this squad is only 24 – they aren't kids. But he is against further restricting overseas player numbers, warning: "If you cut off those players the quality will go down further."