Brown warns McNamara over Clark
St Helens coach Nathan Brown is urging England boss Steve McNamara to resist the growing clamour to pick rising star Daryl Clark as his first-choice hooker for the end-of-year Four Nations Series.
The 21-year-old Clark, whose big-money move to Warrington Wolves for 2015 was confirmed this week, was called into England's training squad in June after catching the eye of McNamara during Castleford Tigers’ impressive start to the season and he has gone on to maintain his impressive form.
He is expected to rival St Helens' England regular James Roby, as well as Wigan Warriors’ Michael McIlorum, for the clashes against Australia, Samoa and New Zealand.
Brown, however, believes Clark's performance in the Tetley's Challenge Cup final was a chastening experience and that it would be a mistake to throw him in at the deep end for his country.
"The other day's game was a good experience for him," Brown said. "I would imagine England would take Roby, McIlorum and Daryl Clark on tour but Daz Clark for me is not ready to be England's starting hooker yet.
"It's a lot tougher playing for 60 or 70 minutes against Australia than it is playing 60 minutes for Cas. But coming off the bench and having his squirt and trying to win them the game would be good thing for him, as would working with one of those experienced players."
Roby provided a timely reminder of his class with an impressive performance in Saints' crucial 13-12 First Utility Super League win over Leeds Rhinos last night that enabled them to put one hand on the league leaders' shield.
With Wigan suffering a shock defeat at Widnes Vikings and Warrington and Huddersfield Giants fighting out a 24-24 draw on Thursday, only Clark's Castleford can now prevent St Helens finishing top but they will need to win all three of their remaining games, starting with the visit of Bradford Bulls tomorrow.
Widnes' 24-10 win over the Warriors looks to have secured their play-off spot but Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Salford Red Devils will be aiming to keep alive their slender top-eight hopes when they meet at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium in tomorrow's other game.
The Red Devils look to be the side most capable of winning their last three fixtures to give themselves a chance of climbing into the top eight, having won four of their past six, while Wakefield have lost their previous two.
"Everyone plays each other in and around there," Wildcats coach James Webster said. "There could be 1,000 different scenarios and you have to be a mathematician to work out what the figure is.
"The top eight hasn't really been spoken about but we just want to win. We need to win games.
"Obviously with the weeks off due to the Challenge Cup and losing the last two, it seems like a while since we won a game so we want to go out and win there.
"We understand Salford are playing really well. We've done a lot of work on them and they have got some great players in their team."
Webster is delighted that Australian scrum-half Tim Smith, who made his Salford debut in the opening match of the season against Wakefield, will be able to line up against his parent club.
Smith is on loan to the Wildcats, who are hoping to buy him back from the Red Devils for next season.
Webster said: "It was always the deal he'd play as far as I know. He will be in for a bit of extra attention I'm sure. Salford know him well.
"He hasn't spoken about anything any differently this week. He's prepared as he always does."