England coach Steve McNamara reckons they have moved on from their heartbreaking World Cup semi-final loss – then memories came flooding back.
For the record, England have moved on from their heartbreaking 2013 World Cup semi-final loss.
Well, until memories of it come flooding back again.
Players have stressed they won’t be using last year’s last gasp 20-18 loss to New Zealand as motivation since arriving at England’s Gold Coast camp ahead of this weekend’s Four Nations tournament opener.
“It’s happened. It’s gone,” said Canterbury enforcer James Graham who will stand in for injured captain Sean O’Loughlin (quad) in Saturday’s clash with Samoa in Brisbane.
And England coach Steve McNamara seemed to tow the team line – until he began to dwell on Kiwi half Shaun Johnson’s match-winning effort with 20 seconds left on the clock at Wembley.
“We don’t have any hangovers over it – it’s not holding us back,” McNamara said initially.
But a steely-eyed McNamara then added: “The feeling is still there at the bottom of your stomach.
“I think it helps motivate us to go on and drive us to make sure we get to the final and give ourselves a chance of winning it this year.
“We were just 20 seconds short.
“We have to make sure it doesn’t happen this time around.”
So much for that, then.
McNamara regained his composure and tried to keep to the team mantra when asked if England could win the Four Nations title.
“It’s the toughest challenge in sport coming to the southern hemisphere and beating Australia, New Zealand and Samoa on their home soil as such,” he said.
“None of these games will be easy.
“But if we play to our potential we are a great chance in every one of those games.”
McNamara named four rookies in his 17 against Samoa – Canberra-bound Josh Hodgson, O’Loughlin’s replacement Joe Westerman of Hull FC, reigning Man of Steel Daryl Clark and Wigan’s 27-year-old halfback Matty Smith.
“It’s a blow. He’s our captain, our leader,” McNamara said of Wigan lock O’Loughlin’s withdrawal.
“But James Graham is a great leader and we saw that with the Bulldogs this season in the NRL where he single-handedly led them to a grand final.
“He inspires everyone around him to follow his lead.”
O’Loughlin is expected to return for England’s second clash against Australia in Melbourne on November 2.