League: Bizarre venue for Kiwis match against Scotland

By Michael Burgess in Carlisle

Danny Brough, celebrating a try during Scotland's match against Tonga at the 2013 World Cup, is a former UK Super League Man of Steel. Photo / photosport.co.nz
Danny Brough, celebrating a try during Scotland's match against Tonga at the 2013 World Cup, is a former UK Super League Man of Steel. Photo / photosport.co.nz

In the history of the Four Nations tournament, Scotland is undoubtedly the most unlikely participant.

The Bravehearts, who will face the Kiwis tomorrow in Workington, represent a country that has only amateur league competitions.

All of their players are based in England or Australia, and the vast majority qualify for Scotland through ancestry.

Scotland performed well at the 2013 World Cup - reaching the quarter-finals - but were still the outsiders at the 2014 European Cup, which doubled as the qualification event for this tournament.

France, with a long league pedigree and well established professional teams were the favourites, while Ireland and Wales were also ranked ahead of Scotland.

But Scotland beat both Celtic countries and then had a narrow loss to France which saw them qualify by the narrowest of margins - their points differential three points superior to France.

They were expected to be whipping boys coming into this competition but have performed with credit. Scotland lost 54-12 to the Kangaroos but put up decent resistance in the middle 50 minutes of that match, scoring 12 points while conceding 14.

Scotland then gave a good account of themselves in Coventry last week, leading 8-0 after 25 minutes before England's experience and size proved too much.

"A lot of people questioned us but I think we have shown we deserve to be here," said Scotland coach Steve McCormack after that match.

There is still an argument that Samoa - clearly the best nation behind the big three - should have been automatically included but Scotland have shown potential ahead of next year's World Cup.

They have the nucleus of a good side, led by Hudderfield's Danny Brough, a former Man of Steel winner (2013 Super League player of the season). Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett (both Cowboys) and Euan Aitken (Dragons) add thrust to the backline and Luke Douglas (Titans), Billy McConnachie (Ipswich Jets) and Adam Walker (Hull KR) are the pick of the forward pack.

Suprisingly, Saturday's match will be played in the coastal town of Workington (25,000). The county of Cumbria is a league hub, but is still a slightly bizarre choice, especially at a ground that doubles as speedway track.

It's home to the Workington Comets who race every Saturday between March and October in the British Speedway's Premier League.

The tournament organisers claim they couldn't find a suitable venue in Scotland, and Workington was chosen for its proximity to the border.

But the local club, Workington Town, plays in the third tier of English league and the ground has limitations as an international venue.

It's hard to understand why league hubs such as Leeds, Wigan, St Helens, Warrington or Hull weren't considered for the match, which has struggled to attract much local media interest.

But the Kiwis have a job to do, and that's all that David Kidwell's team are focused on.

"We are treating this like any other test match," said captain Jesse Bromwich. "We are still wearing the black jumper, playing against Scotland and we have to turn up with the right attitude. We are here to improve every week and if we want to do well in this competition we have to improve every week."

- NZ Herald

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