Bellamy’s secret mission into enemy camp
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart isn't the only NRL coach that's been helping England's rugby team prepare for the World Cup.
It's now emerged that Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy has also previously spent time in camp with the English, passing on inside tips including how he handled the relationship between his superstar players Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.
England assistant coach John Mitchell said that when Bellamy visited the squad, he opened up about a whole range of strategies that England are now using as part of their World Cup campaign after he was quizzed by former NRL grand final winner and England international Ben Te'o.
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"He was awesome and he did speak to the players. Ben Te'o interviewed him," Mitchell said.
"It's actually a really good way of growing our players so that they are asking the right questions and also creates an informality where everyone can learn. A lot of players in this squad enjoy rugby league.
"They talked about pre-season. Some rugby league pre-seasons are pretty tough. They don't have scrums and lineouts to deal with like we do. What was Billy Slater like? What was Cooper Cronk like? What was Cameron Smith like? And how do you gel those personalities?
"Craig talked about how he brought them up as youngsters and how they were different personalities. And then when it is a slog in the season how they deal with that, and how they deal with getting to the finals. He was talking about how he gets enjoyment into the program as well."
If England do beat the Wallabies in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final, then they can thank most of Australia's football codes.
Not only is the head coach Eddie Jones an Aussie but so too are his assistants Scott Wisemantel and Neil Craig (ex Adelaide Crows) while Mitchell knows Australian rugby inside out after coaching Western Force for years.
But the Kiwi was quick to hose down the notion that some of the best brains in the NRL were plotting to bring down the Wallabies, saying England regularly brought in coaches from other sports and it was just coincidental that Stuart was arriving the same week they were playing Australia.
"You can dress it up anyway you want to but if you look at it from a realistic point of view, the planning for him coming was done a long time ago," Mitchell said.
"Australia didn't know they would have England in the quarter-final and England didn't know either."
Stuart will mostly be observing how England go about preparing for the match and hopes to learn as much from them as they learn from him, but Mitchell said he definitely wanted to pick up some advice that could help the Poms this weekend.
"Certainly I'll be picking his brains at some point about what they do defensively," he said.
"Clearly, they have a weekly periodisation and they come from a collision sport as well, so it'll be important to understand how they go about dealing with long turnarounds and short turnarounds and how they deal with the younger generation of rugby player that we can all learn from.
"I think it's more about what he's experienced in the last year. Secondly, it's for him to learn off us as well, and thirdly he's a very experienced coach and like most 50-year-old coaches we have to learn from, otherwise we'd be pushed aside.
"It's important to understand what he's learned along the way and what he says is important as well."