Jukes tips Gareth Hock for England recall
Leigh coach Neil Jukes believes veteran forward Gareth Hock is playing well enough to earn a recall for England.
The 33-year-old former Wigan second rower has enjoyed a new lease of life since his move into the front row for promoted Leigh and scored two tries in their 22-8 win over a Warrington side that included current England props Chris Hill and Mike Cooper.
Hock has not played for his country since being axed as a disciplinary measure on the eve of the 2013 World Cup but Jukes says he would be worthy of a call-up for the 2017 tournament.
“Why not?” Jukes said. “He carried the ball as strong as anybody else. There were current internationals out there and he was head and shoulders above a lot of them.
“Gaz has got a bit of a tag about him but he’s a loveable rogue and his discipline has been very good. Off the field he is brilliant. He is one of the first in and he works really hard. I went with him to Red Hall (for a disciplinary hearing) and he got a fine and no ban and I thought it was really important he played for us this week.
“He had an unbelievable pre-season and I asked him to lead from the front.”
Hock scored the first and last of his side’s tries as they followed up their victories over St Helens and Huddersfield to claim their most impressive scalp yet and climb into the top four.
Leigh never looked back after racing into a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes and they were 20-2 up before conceding their first try in two matches as they cantered to a first win over Warrington since 1988.
It means that, just six matches into the season, the Centurions have already won more than they managed throughout the entire previous campaign in Super League in 2005.
“It was a real tough opening six games and to get 50 per cent of them as wins is a real credit to the boys,” Jukes said. “We’re finding our feet, we’re getting battle hardened.
“It’s a cauldron here. We’re starting games well but we’re also finishing them strong so we’re getting some consistency.
“Our defence was outstanding. Warrington are a class side and we did a real good job to put them under pressure,
“It never looked in doubt. I was disappointed with the try we conceded at the end but I can’t complain too much.”
Despite the appearance of skipper Hill for his first game since England’s defeat by Australia in November, Warrington were unrecognisable from the team that beat Brisbane Broncos so impressively in the World Club Series and a fifth successive defeat piles the pressure on long-serving coach Tony Smith.
“They out-enthused us,” Smith admitted. “I thought both teams made a reasonable amount of errors in the first half and we gave away too many penalties.
“They came up with a close-to-the-line try, which we class as pretty soft, we need to be stopping those.
“And we had a disjointed attack, it just wasn’t flowing and certainly was not how we trained.
“There was an amount of self-inflicted pain again. My players are trying hard but just coming up with wrong options and it’s hurting us.
“Once we start making better decisions, we will come out the other side and get on a roll.
“We will re-group. We’ll get in tomorrow into some hard work and fix it up. We’ll have Stef Ratchford back next week but we’ve got to get some the people who are already out there back in their best form.”