England stars need experience of playing in Australia
Highlights - Australia 34-14 England (UK only)
By Dave Woods
BBC Sport, New Zealand
So here comes the depressingly familiar knee-jerk reaction: "Scrap the international game."
The cynics will howl from on high that yet another England defeat at the hands of the Aussies is further proof that we should just give up, hold up our hands and resign ourselves to the fact that we'll never compete.
"Let's just stop playing them - the international game is dead," is their familiar retort. Well, shame on them.
This latest dismally dull defeat against the Kangaroos was one of the most disheartening displays you're likely to witness. England beaten on the back of their own naive mistakes as the green and golds barely rattled out of second gear.
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It became a boring game of rugby league by the second half.
But what we saw in Melbourne should give anyone with any common sense the realisation that what we need is more, much more, rather than less. Here was a group of players with some ability. Given the platform to gather greater experience they have the chance to compete.
England were second best, as they were against New Zealand, but only by exposing those same players, and others, to this level of competition on a much more regular basis are we going to see any improvement.
Look at what's happened to New Zealand. They have become consistently good because most of their players are now regulars in the Australian league, the NRL.
They've got used to the 80 minute intensity, the speed of decision making, the physical match-ups required to square up to the Aussies in the Test arena and say, with confidence: "We are your equals."
As a result, the game in New Zealand is beginning to earn a higher profile.
Too many of our players do not possess anything like the same experience. Super League is terrifically entertaining, and a wonderfully vibrant competition. But it does not, clearly, prepare our players for Test football.
International rugby league is vital to the future health of an English game which has shrunk back, at an alarming rate, into a perceived northern ghetto in recent years.
Newspapers and other media outlets, and ultimately sponsors, are paying it less and less attention because it fails to capture the national imagination. Only a strong national team can break that trend.
Time and distance makes playing more Tests difficult, so maybe the short-term fix is to get more of our players into the NRL.
It would need a bold and controversial move by someone centrally at the Rugby Football League to admit we have been trying to compete with decreasing success for four decades now.
Let's grab the bull by the horns. Approach a dozen or more of our best young players, and by using central funds sponsor them to join NRL teams on two-year contracts to get them up to speed.
It robs the Super League of the very best talent, but even if 12 went that is only one player per team who would be missing for a couple of years.
By keeping imports to a minimum it would also help promote more young British players into the Super League.
If that were to happen we would have core players educated in the NRL's school of hard knocks available to us for the World Cup in 2013.
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There will be those who will wail and moan at the mere suggestion of exporting our best, but what is the alternative? Should we sit on our hands and talk about what should be done, but then do very little, as we always have before?
Do we let the small time thinkers at clubs get their own blinkered, selfish, short-term way?
If so, best of luck, because English rugby league is in danger of disappearing down the plughole.
An international game is desperately important for the future health of the game in England. If we fail to take action to become more competitive, we can shut up shop and go home.
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