If England are to thrive in New Zealand and Australia over the next five weeks, they need to show the sort of commitment epitomised by Luke Robinson right from the start.
The Huddersfield scrum-half flew out with the squad for the Four Nations on Friday night, despite the small matter of having to postpone his wedding. His wife-to-be dropped him off at Manchester Airport, so relations cannot have broken down completely as a result.
"Once the decision was made we were fine," said Robinson, who was also having to field a series of messages telling him how well his stag trip to Las Vegas was going without him. His single-mindedness is a clue to the role he could play in the tournament. It has taken injuries to Kyle Eastmond and Danny McGuire – plus Richie Myler's loss of form – to get him on the plane but, having got that far, he looks suspiciously like the first-choice scrum-half, which could be the making of him.
Robinson's courage and enthusiasm have never been in doubt, but he is now a coolerdecision-maker on the field, which could be vital.
He was not the only one with other commitments and decisions to make on Friday. The England captain, Adrian Morley, was later than the rest at the airport, having been a pall-bearer at the funeral of his old team-mate Terry Newton. Stuart Fielden was not at the airport at all, but will follow in a couple of days, after his wife has given birth to their first child. He too could be an important figure in the 24-strong party. In the international wilderness for three years, he has dug deep to unearth his old form and has the air of a man making up for lost time.
He will arrive in Auckland in time to be involved in the warm-up game against the New Zealand Maori next Saturday, which could be as tough a game as against the full Kiwi side in Wellington a week later, when the tournament proper starts. That is the game England really must win if they are to have a realistic chance of makingthe final in Brisbane next month.
Despite the enforced absence of the man who would have captained the side, Jamie Peacock, there is not too much to be worried about in the forwards. Players such as Morley, James Graham and two battle-hardened Poms from the NRL, Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess, have already more than proved their capabilities at this level.
The test for Steve McNamara lies in finding the right blend in the backs. Does he play Sam Tomkins at stand-off or in his Wigan position of full-back? Where does a third Australian-based Englishman, Gareth Widdop, fit in? These questions will need to be answered, but McNamara got the answers he wanted when he asked Robinson and Fielden if they were prepared to commit to the cause.Reuse content