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Steve McNamara full of praise for Bradford Bulls teenager John Bateman
John Bateman leads his country out tonight with a ringing endorsement from England boss Steve McNamara – and a potential World Cup spot within his grasp.
The Bulls back-rower will captain England’s Academy against France at Odsal and head Dave Elliott’s side on their tour of Australia later this year.
The Telegraph & Argus can also reveal that the Bradford-born forward is under serious consideration for McNamara’s senior squad.
Bateman is expected to progress into the England Knights set-up after this summer’s tour Down Under – but it is believed that consistent performances for club and country could see him fast-tracked into McNamara’s elite training squad for next year’s World Cup.
Former Bulls boss McNamara is well aware of Bateman’s awesome potential and told the T&A: “John Bateman is without doubt one of the best players I’ve ever seen as a junior. He’s a special talent and I realised that during my time at Bradford.
“Myself, Paul Medley and his team spent a whole lot of time researching John and getting him to sign for the Bulls because we knew what an outstanding prospect he was.
I think the tour is a really important part of John’s education and developmentSteve McNamara
“He’s started to fulfil that already with his performances this season at first-team level and that’s a credit to him and his club.”
It is to be hoped that the Bulls can resist selling Bateman, who has been the subject of a six-figure bid from Warrington, and continue to build for the future.
A number of other homegrown players – notably Elliott Whitehead, Tom Olbison, Adam O’Brien, Danny Addy, James Donaldson and Tom Burgess – have been nurtured in the youth ranks at Odsal and gone to establish themselves at first-team level.
McNamara said: “I’m tremendously proud of that. There was a real push at the time to bring young players through due to circumstances.
“We invested heavily in time and energy to recruit some good young players that would form the backbone of Bradford Bulls for years to come.
“I’m glad to see they’ve all developed as players and are making marks in the first-team now. If they can keep that group together, and add one or two people to it, they’re certainly going to be a strong team.
“We saw Leeds do it over a number of years and Bradford will only get stronger and stronger if they can keep that pack together.”
McNamara has no doubts that 18-year-old Bateman will benefit from going on tour to Australia for the Academy’s two-Test series, which will see the teenager miss four Bulls matches.
“I think the tour is a really important part of John’s education and development,” said McNamara, whose senior side take on the Exiles at Langtree Park tomorrow.
“I talked to James Graham about when he went on tour with England Under-18s and he learned so much about playing with different players in different conditions 12,000 miles away from home.
“It was invaluable to his progression and John should be very proud about leading an England team on tour. Hopefully it will help him on and off the field.”
Bateman is the only Bulls player on show for the game tonight (6.30pm), with the Academy clash preceded at 4.30pm by England Women taking on their French counterparts.
Four Bradford Thunderbirds players – Lauren Stallwood, Amy Hardcastle, Kirsty Moroney and Rachel Twibill – have been named in Steve McCormack’s squad.
Tickets for the double-header cost £3 and can be purchased on the gate.