No one can argue with Brian Noble's record as Bradford Bulls boss.

Five successive Grand Final appearances, three Super League titles, three World Club Challenges, a Challenge Cup - and a partridge in a pear tree.

Throw in his rescue act at Wigan and there is no doubting he is one of the game's most successful club coaches.

His record at international level since taking charge of Great Britain in 2004 isn't quite as impressive. Well, in fact, not by a long shot.

Thirteen Tri-Nations games, five wins, eight defeats, one final appearance - that horrifically embarrassing 44-4 mauling by the Aussies in Leeds two years ago - and a big fat zilch when it comes to titles.

Noble's Lions arrived back from Down Under on Tuesday, having won just once in this year's competition.

They were praised for their guts, determination and courage - where have we heard that before when discussing English sportsmen - but realistically they just weren't good enough to reach this weekend's finale.

Even with the aid of New Zealand's points deduction, wayward Britain could not plot a route to Sydney, and so, to the delight of all neutrals, it is the Kiwis and Aussies that contest what should be a fascinating battle on Saturday.

But where next for the Lions?

The reasons behind Britain's failure are numerous, whether it be the punishing schedule heaped on them by the international bosses, the length of their Super League season or Sean Long's disappearing act. All have been trotted out as mitigating factors.

But Noble has to accept much of the blame, if only for his selection policy, and it has to be questioned whether he is the right man to take them forward.

He has long been attacked for sticking by old favourites and, although one in particular - the magnificent Jamie Peacock - repaid that faith over recent weeks, many didn't.

Stuart Fielden was a big letdown on what should have been the stage to prove his worth as the world's No 1 prop' but Noble continued to back him even when he was getting bashed backwards by all who came before him.

Garreth Carvell must have been wondering what he had done wrong not to get more run-outs, while you could cry for Rob Burrow, who didn't even manage a minute of action.

One of the reasons Britain came up short again was the fact they had no real creativity, yet here is THE player in Super League who can genuinely magic something out of nothing.

Bulls fans know full well about Burrow's game-breaking dynamism after he twice destroyed them last season but there he was on tour sat on his backside dressed in an official suit and tie - wound up, ready to go but never being unleashed.

Yes, go with Long as he had proved he is Britain's best scrum half, both for Saints and against the Kiwis in June as well as, undoubtedly, that night of glory in Sydney.

But once he'd thrown out his dummy and skulked home, why choose Richard Horne at No 7? A fine player but not someone who was ever going to scare the Aussies.

Burrow's pace could have made such a difference. It may have only papered over the cracks but it would have given the tourists a fighting chance.

Noble's decision to leave the Loiner kicking his heels was all the more alarming considering he didn't have one of those - a kicker - in his side.

Not that Britain were ever going to get as close to the Roos that converting goals may have proved vital, but surely you need a recognised marksman in any international side? And Burrow's tactical kicking is also far superior to Horne's.

Then there's debutant Kirk Yeaman, who hardly put a foot wrong having replaced the abject Martin Gleeson in Britain's second game.

But, after dropping old favourite Gleeson for the first Australia match, Noble said: "You don't like to do that to someone who has been part and parcel of the international scene for the last three years. Martin is well aware of what he has to do to get back into the team and, if I was a gambling man, I think he will."

What sort of a message does that send out to young Yeaman? He could score a hat-trick against the hosts and New Zealand yet be ousted for the final contest versus Australia. As it happened, he didn't do either but he delivered far more impressive displays than Gleeson, who returned in Brisbane and had another shocker.

What had the Warrington centre done to deserve that return? There were no midweek tour matches to prove his form. The only notable incision he made was that he was allegedly drunk with Long on a plane from Wellington. Get him back in there then.

Such loyalty is badly misplaced and it is the fear that Noble will continue in such a tried and tested manner - let alone that awful record - that points to the conclusion that he should step down now.

There were positives, not least the form of youngsters like Gareth Hock, James Roby and Jon Wilkin.

Noble has been a patriotic, committed and, at times inspiring, GB coach but those adjectives all too often go in tandem with defeat.

There is no Tri-Nations tournament until 2009. Make the change now and hopefully there will be no need to make more excuses in three years.