McRae sees strength in Exiles squad
will be going up against an Exiles side hell-bent on proving its worth this summer, according to Shaun McRae.by NRL
will be going up against an Exiles side hell-bent on proving its worth this summer, according to Shaun McRae.
Hull FC director of rugby McRae is one of the men who has been tasked with putting together a squad of overseas players to take on the national side in two fixtures this summer, and this morning, along with head coach Daniel Anderson, named the final 22-man party.
And while Anderson's presence was only via a video link-up - he does not arrive in the country until Sunday - McRae was happy to state how keyed up the Exiles group are ahead of the games.
The squad is made up of five players each from Catalan Dragons and St Helens, four from Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves, two from Huddersfield Giants and one apiece from Hull and London Broncos.
The players will meet in St Helens for a week-long training camp on Sunday night, and McRae says they cannot wait to get going.
"It's an outstanding squad and, for me, the strength of it is evident from the players that missed out," McRae said.
"It's strong, well-balanced in terms of size, strength, kicking, attacking and defending, and we want to provide a great test for the England team, that's why we're doing it.
"This Exiles team is hell-bent on winning this series and we are taking it very seriously."
When the idea was first born last season, some scoffed at the chances of a collection of ex-pats being able to form a spirit and understanding strong enough to put in a credible performance.
They did, though, winning the inaugural clash at Headingley, and McRae claims those involved want the Exiles brand to eventually mean more than just a part-time team that comes together once or twice a year.
"We are a great test for the England team, that's part of why we are doing it," he added.
"But we also want to be a lone brand, we don't want it just to be England versus the rest of the world. We want the Exiles to be prominent. We're going out to win both games and are taking it extremely seriously."
There are 193 caps worth of international experience within the squad put together by Anderson, McRae and St Helens coach Mike Rush, but for the Australians within that group - such as captain Brett Hodgson and and the Monaghan brothers, Joel and Michael - the Exiles represents their only remaining hopes of playing representative rugby.
The Australian Rugby League do not pick players who work in Stobart Super League for State of Origin or Test matches, and McRae believes the Exiles gives those type of players the perfect platform to show their homeland what they are missing out on.
"A percentage of players have given up on Origin berths and Australian selection to move overseas," he said.
"Some players here have made sacrifices and this is a great opportunity to showcase themselves on a big stage.
"Some of the players are capable of playing for New South Wales, Queensland or Australia and this is a great chance for them to play representative football."
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