Scotland have suffered a major blow ahead of the Rugby League World Cup with the withdrawal of Peter Wallace, one of their leading Australia-based players.

The Penrith Panthers hooker cum half-back who was one of Scotland’s outstanding performers during their surprise run to the quarter-finals of the last World Cup in 2013, has battled through the National Rugby League play-offs with a broken hand and three broken ribs, but his club have understandably taken the view that he now needs to take time off to recover from those injuries.

Scotland coach Steve McCormack has faced challenges in the hooker department since the end of the 2013 World Cup after which all three hookers – brothers Ian and Andrew Henderson and Ben Fisher – retired. For the past three campaigns the hooking role has been shared by Liam Hood, who played this season in Super League for Leigh Centurions, Workington Town pivot Callum Phillips – who came off the bench to great effect against England last year, and even Hull KR utility player Danny Addy.

“It’s disappointing we won’t have Peter as he is a class act but we have managed without him for the last three years and done well,” said McCormack. “We have some very talented hookers and just like when anyone gets injured, an opportunity opens up for someone else. There are several players in our squad who got their first opportunity because of injury to another player and they took it with both hands.”

McCormack is expected to name at least one other senior hooker with considerable Super League and international experience to join Hood in the number nine role.

“We’ve had to regenerate the squad before and people will see some new players in this squad, too,” revealed McCormack. “It’s normal. We had it in 2008 and we had it after 2013 when we lost all three hookers. We’ve built three teams for three World Cups and that’s been quite smooth really.”

Scotland will announce their World Cup squad on Tuesday. They fly out to Brisbane on Sunday, October 15 to set up camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Lennox Heads and play New South Wales Country Under-23s at Ballina on Friday, October 20.

They then head up to their tournament base in Cairns the following day. The Bravehearts’ opening match is against Tonga in Cairns on Sunday, October 29 (kick-off 8.15am UK time) before they head to Christchurch to play New Zealand on Saturday, November 4 and return for their final group B game in Cairns against Samoa on Saturday, November 11.

Henry McCall