McNamara brushes defeat aside
England coach Steve McNamara is confident that no irreparable damage was inflicted on his side by their shock defeat to Italy as they switch their focus to World Cup favourites Australia.
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McNamara's squad of 20 players spent Sunday licking their wounds from Saturday's 15-14 loss to the 500/1 tournament outsiders before going into camp at Loughborough University to prepare for the really serious business - Saturday's opening group game against the Kangaroos at the Millennium Stadium.
"We were disappointed with the result and we were disappointed with the performance," said McNamara, speaking at the official launch of the 14-team tournament at Old Trafford.
"We had prepared extremely well, but we probably lost our concentration and focus for that game and paid the price.
"We came up with a performance that wasn't great, but one that hopefully, as the tournament unfolds, will put us in a better position to win it.
"The game was designed to blow some cobwebs away and hopefully build some combinations. We didn't quite do that - we didn't quite find our rhythm - but, certainly in the process of everything involved, it won't do us any harm.
"We've looked at that as a group and we're happy that we're in a position to move forward and perform very well this week."
After spending two weeks at a high-altitude training camp in South Africa on the eve of the Italy friendly, McNamara and his squad will re-group in Loughborough on Monday night to finalise their build-up.
"It feels like going back home," McNamara said. "It's been our base for a number of years and we enjoy everything that Loughborough brings. It's world-class preparation for the group."
McNamara says he is hoping to finalise his team before they move camp to Cardiff on Thursday and insists that, despite their woeful display against the Azzurri, nobody played themselves out of contention for the opening game.
The coach expects Wigan loose forward Sean O'Loughlin to come into the reckoning after being rested for Saturday's warm-up game and hinted that Warrington second rower Ben Westwood would return after missing that match through suspension.
"We all know the qualities of Ben in terms of what he brings," McNamara said. "He'll be a strong candidate for selection.
"I think for the stability of this group, the earlier we can confirm that ourselves as a team the better it will be and we aim to do that early this week.
"I'd be hopeful that everyone would be fit. When you have 24 world-class players in your squad, you always have decisions to make."
McNamara also insisted that South Sydney prop Tom Burgess and Leeds centre Zak Hardaker were in contention after stepping down to play for England Knights in their 52-16 thrashing of Samoa, which was played as a curtain-raiser at the Salford City Stadium on Saturday.
"They were always in the frame," said McNamara, who watched the entire Knights game live. "They did play well and I thought Brett Ferres was good as well.
"For them to train with us and drop back there and perform like that was great credit to them.
"I was really pleased with the Knights' performance. They attacked it and showed us the way forward in terms of their energy and enthusiasm. It was like a cup final for them."
Australia, whose coach Tim Sheens was among the crowd at Barton, are one of only three teams not to play a warm-up fixture - Tonga and Ireland are the others - but McNamara admits he needs to do little homework on England's initial World Cup opposition.
"I think they know us pretty well as individuals and we know them," he said. "There are plenty of other teams in the competition with unfamiliar faces but Australia and England know each other inside out.
"We've had some good challenges with them over the last couple of years but we've not quite got the wins and we look forward to changing that this week."