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Rugby League: No change at the top

The men who masterminded Scotland's thrilling run to the quarter-final of the Rugby League World Cup quarter-final have given the national team a further surprise boost by agreeing to remain in charge until the next edition in 2017.

Retaining their World Cup management team could help persuade top players such as Danny Brough to make themselves available again to Scotland
Retaining their World Cup management team could help persuade top players such as Danny Brough to make themselves available again to Scotland

Steve McCormack, the head coach, and his assistants Dave Rotherham - the former St Helens assistant coach - and John Murphy did an exceptional job to pull a scratch team together at the sport's biggest tournament last autumn.

Rank outsiders when the event got underway, their shock wins over Tonga and the USA and draw with Italy - teams loaded with talent from Australia's National Rugby League - took them to that quarter-final meeting with the then-reigning champions New Zealand.

They then put in another highly commended performance at Headingley, bringing new credibility to the Scottish game.

McCormack, who has been in charge of what is very much a part-time set-up for the past decade, had indicated before the tournament that he felt this would probably be the right time to step down. However, the momentum generated in the tournament and the potential revealed in the course of that have helped persuade him and his assistants to continue.

"This is a very exciting time for us," said Gavin Willacy, spokesman for Scottish Rugby League. "We are delighted that Steve has agreed to stay in charge of the national team until the next World Cup. We have some major challenges in terms of funding, but the way we performed at the World Cup and the attention that generated offer real cause for optimism."

It is expected that Scotland's schedule for this year, including details of their European Championship matches against France, Wales and Ireland, will be confirmed in the next few days. "On World Cup form we could almost be considered favourites for that tournament," said Willacy. "The winners will get the chance to play against Australia, England and New Zealand in the Four Nations tournament in 2016 which could be the last chance for players like Danny Brough to play against those sides.

"It will also be a chance to stake a claim for places in the Great Britain squad for their 2015 Test series with Australia.

"As a result of that and the news that we have been able to keep the same management in place, we are confident that most if not all of the players who performed so well for us will want to make themselves available again."

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