McNamara denies scouting trip
England head coach Steve McNamara has dispelled rumours that he was scouting for eligible players during his three-week trip to Australia.
McNamara returned from a whistle-stop trip down under, where he met his six Australia-based England internationals and made a guest appearance on the popular TV programme The Footy Show to outline his vision for international rugby league.
McNamara gave NRL-based duo Jack Reed and Chris Heighington their England debuts in last year's Four Nations Series, but he was forced to play down reports of a move for Tongan Feleti Mateo, who has an Oxford-born mother.
"There was a perception that I was down there on a 'shopping trip' for players with British passports, a situation which couldn't be further from the truth," he said.
"Our stance is, and always has been, that we will play within the international rules. That sometimes causes controversy, as we saw with the selection of Jason Tamou for today's Test against the Kiwis.
"But my trip wasn't about recruitment - I'm not going to target players just because they qualify to play for England.
"It's essential we maintain our English identity and that everyone who plays for England is selected to do so for the right reasons."
McNamara met with current internationals Gareth Ellis, Sam Burgess, James Graham, Heighington, Reed and Gareth Widdop, as well as Luke and George Burgess, during his visit.
"It was a very rewarding trip and an extremely useful exercise, not least because it provided me with an opportunity to talk through our plans for England on a face-to-face basis," he said.
"We had already had one ETS (Elite Training Squad) camp this year and have another coming up soon and it's important that the boys playing in the NRL are kept abreast of what we're doing.
"We have a great unity of purpose within the England squad and it was good to see that that sense of belonging has continued with the players in the NRL.
"They may be 12,000 miles away but it's certainly not a case of out of sight, out of mind. Their passion for England and belief in what we are doing is clearly still burning strong and there's a fantastic vibe."
The next ETS and England Knights camp will take place at Loughborough University from April 29 to May 1.