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England boss left frustrated after Four Nations defeat

England coach Steve McNamara spoke of his frustration after watching his side suffer another heartbreaking defeat that puts them on the brink of elimination from the Four Nations Series.

England Head Coach Steve McNamara Credit: Press Association

There was a touch of deja vu as New Zealand followed up their last-minute 20-18 win in last November's World Cup semi-final with a 16-14 triumph in Dunedin that secures them a place in next Saturday's final in Wellington.

England could yet play the Kiwis in the final but only if minnows Samoa beat defending champions Australia by fewer than eight points in the last round-robin game in Wollongong on Sunday.

Ryan Hall's controversially disallowed try against Australia in Melbourne last Sunday will now come back to haunt England but they will also feel cruelly denied by the woodwork at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, where Gareth Widdop's first two conversion attempts rebounded off the uprights.

"We are frustrated," McNamara told BBC2.

"We were a fingernail away last week and a width of a goalpost on a couple of occasions this week. We've been involved in three tremendous Test matches.

"They're a young group and we've got some young players within that and to apply themselves the way they have done and to attack the competition the way they've done is a credit to them.

"As we speak now, we're still in it with a chance if Samoa win but we're desperately close."

Needing to win by 10 points to make the final, England's task grew after conceding the first of Jason Nightingale's two tries inside two minutes but Hall and fellow winger Josh Charnley scored tries before half-time to keep them in contention.

Manu Vatuvei's try early in the second half made it 16-8 and, although Hall grabbed a second to extend his record try haul to 24 in just 23 appearances, England once more came up just short.

The former Bradford Bulls boss added: "In the first half I felt we started to get control but New Zealand are a very good team and they hit us with a couple of sucker punches.

"We came out firing at the start of the second half, Josh nearly went in at the corner and Ryan Hall got one disallowed.

"We just allowed New Zealand a couple of offloads that allowed them to get to the other end of the field a little bit too easily.

"Both teams were absolutely out on their feet. There was nothing left at the end.

"It was an unbelievable Test match. We'll come back strongly from this."

England spurned an opportunity to secure a draw with a last-minute kick at goal as they went for the all-important win and captain Sean O'Loughlin did not believe the 10-point target played on their minds.

"We were just going out to get the win and, if we were in a good position, we knew we might have to push the ball to get a try but we were just trying to get that win to start off with," O'Loughlin said.

"It's disappointing but credit to our boys. We had a great dig at them but just fell short.

"It's out of our hands now. We wanted to get there by our own right but we've not done that, which is tough at the minute, but we'll just wait and see what happens now."

Hull FC release Jacob Miller

Hull FC have released Australian scrum-half Jacob Miller from the last year of his contract, the Super League club have announced.

FC release Jacob Miller Credit: Press Association

The 22-year-old joined the Black and Whites from Wests Tigers midway through the 2013 season but fell out of favour last year and did not report back for pre-season training this week.

Now Hull have confirmed they have paid off the player, who is expected to stay in Super League and is being linked with a move to Wakefield.

The club have agreed a termination fee with the player who is now a free agent and widely expected to join another Super League club imminently," Hull said in a statement. Hull FC would like to thank Jacob for his contribution to the club over the last 18 months.

– Hull FC

Miller made 24 appearances, including the 2013 Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

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Ian Kirke leaves Leeds for Wakefield

Ian Kirke has become the second long-serving front-row forward to leave Leeds in under a week after joining Super League neighbours Wakefield.

Ian Kirke leaves Leeds for Wakefield Credit: Press Association

The veteran prop, who turns 34 in December, has signed a 12-month deal with the Wildcats, where he will join former Leeds team-mates Ali Lauitiiti, Nick Scruton and Paul McShane.

The sudden departure of the 6ft 5in, 17st Kirke, who was released from the last year of his contract with Leeds, follows closely on the heels of that of Ryan Bailey, who joined Hull KR on a two-year deal last Friday.

Ian will add size and experience to our pack and will make us a better team. His professionalism will rub off on the youngsters and improve their performances. Our forward pack has genuine competition for places and pre-season has reflected that so far. I'm delighted to welcome him to the team.

– James Webster, Wildcats coach

Kirke, who turned down the chance to join the Wildcats three years ago, was in the Leeds team that lifted the Challenge Cup in August and has also won five Grand Final rings during a nine-year career with the Rhinos in which he made 214 appearances.

I will always be grateful to the Rhinos for giving me the chance to play in Super League having been spotted at York. I have been fortunate to be involved in finals every year I have been at the club and that is something that I will remember fondly. There are a few familiar faces at Wakefield which will hopefully make the transition that bit easier. I have spoken to James Webster and I was impressed by his plans for the team. It will be strange to play against Leeds next season, I have a lot of good mates at the club but I am sure I will get over that as soon as the whistle goes. It is good to get my future resolved quickly so that I can get a full pre-season with the Wildcats. Leeds are an ambitious club they want to kick on for the future and that means that players like Brad Singleton and Josh Walters deserve the chance to get more game time. The club have been honest with me about that and, whilst there was an option to stay, hopefully by moving I will get the chance to play more consistently which will benefit everyone.

– Ian Kirke
Departures suggest Rhinos' coach Brian McDermott could be ready to move in the transfer market Credit: Press Association

The Rhinos' decision to release two of their experienced forwards and allowback-rower Chris Clarkson to join Widnes on a season-long loan suggests a plunge into the transfer market is imminent.

Their only signing for 2015 so far is Australian prop Adam Cuthbertson, who is joining them from Newcastle Knights, but they have been linked with a move for ex-Wigan and England forward Lee Mossop, who endured an injury-hit first season in the NRL in 2014 with Parramatta.

Ian Kirke has been a fantastic servant for the club and defied those doubters that said a player from the lower leagues could not succeed at the higher level. Ian has not only survived but thrived in Super League. He leaves with our best wishes and I am sure he will do a fantastic job for James Webster and Wakefield next season.

– Brian McDermott, Leeds Coach

Rhinos' Ryan Bailey moves to Hull KR

Hull Kingston Rovers have snapped up Leeds Rhinos forward Ryan Bailey on a two-year contract as the club continues to bolster its squad for the 2015 season.

Bailey leaves Leeds Rhinos for Hull KR Credit: Press Association

A former England and Great Britain international, the prop is one of the most decorated players in Super League having won six Grand Finals, three World Club Challenge titles and one Challenge Cup with the Rhinos.

I’ve achieved a lot of things at Leeds over a 14-year period but I’m ready for a new challenge at Hull KR.

We’ve got a big game at the start of the season against Leeds and that will be a perfect way to hopefully make my debut. I know from experience that the ground is a daunting place to go to, it’s tough for opposition teams and we’ve got to make the most of that.

I know the ins and outs of all the players at Leeds so hopefully I can pass on a few things to Chezzy and we can get a win first game of the season to get us up and running.

– Ryan Bailey

Making his Super League debut for Leeds at the age of 18 in 2002, Bailey has gone on to rack up more than 300 appearances for his hometown club and was granted a testimonial last season for his service to the Headingley side.

Ryan is a fantastic signing and an important one for the club.

With Justin Poore retiring, we lost a lot of experience there and a bit of grunt up front and that’s what Ryan brings to the table. He has a wealth of experience at Super League level and also in big games.

He’s a great athlete, a good trainer and a wonderful player. He gives the impression that he’s a player who plays to the boundaries of the rules at times but he’s aggressive and that’s what you need in a front rower sometimes.

– Willie Poching, New Assistant coach
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Burgess says Bath will be a "cracking experience"

Former Rugby League star Sam Burgess has signed a three-year-contract with Bath. He says it's going to be an "exciting couple of years" and his first impressions of the city are good.

I had a little walk around the city this morning - it's a beautiful place, it's absolutely stunning. I've not spent a lot of time down here in the south (of England) but for now... what I've seen of it and the people I've met, it's been fantastic. It's going to be a cracking experience I can tell.

– Sam Burgess

You can see Matthias Kurth's full interview with "Slammin' Sam" here:

Lowes: Burgess code switch "huge blow" to RL

Bradford Bulls coach James Lowes believes Sam Burgess's defection to Rugby Union is a major blow to Rugby League.

Burgess, who began his career with the Bulls before moving to South Sydney, where he took the game in Australia by storm, was officially unveiled today by Premiership club Bath.

But Lowes, who has coached in both League and Union, and knows Burgess from his time on the England coaching staff, says he's sure "Slammin' Sam" will be a huge hit:

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Rhinos secure Watkins on long-term contract

Leeds Rhinos have confirmed that England centre Kallum Watkins has agreed a new five year contract with the club.

Kallum Watkins agrees five-year contract Credit: Press Association

The 23-year-old centre has played his entire career at Headingley Carnegie having emerged from the club’s Academy as a teenager. He helped England to victory over Samoa in the opening game of the Four Nations in Brisbane last weekend with a try in the 32-26 win, his seventh try in nine appearances for his country.

His new contract will keep him at the Rhinos until at least the end of the 2019 Super League season. He has scored 72 tries in 128 appearances for the Rhinos since making his debut back in April 2008.

I never wanted to play for any other club than Leeds and I am pleased we have been able to agree a new deal that keeps me here for the future. I have got a young family and the chance to be part of this team as we develop over the next few years is something I am very excited about. The Cup Final last year was very special and it has whetted the appetite for what is to come in 2015. We were all disappointed that we could not get back to Old Trafford last season but I am sure that will drive us on in pre-season to make sure we are ready to go one better in next season. We have got a tremendous group of players at the Rhinos and a great coaching team and together I think we can achieve even more over the next few years. The last decade has been an incredible time for the Rhinos and it has been special to be part of that. Our challenge is now to build on that and continue that period of success in the years to come.

– Kallum Watkins

Kallum’s contract is a significant announcement for the Rhinos and for the England team as well ahead of this weekend’s crucial clash with Australia. To have our best young talent committing to not just Rugby League but Super League as well, is a major boost to our game and one that should not be underestimated. A player as talented as Kallum will inevitably be coveted by the NRL and Rugby Union however his determination to be part of the Rhinos future is something that I am sure will get all our supporters excited.

– Chief Executive Gary Hetherington

Hull KR's Poore calls it quits

Hull KR's Justin Poore has confirmed his retirement from rugby league following a knee injury.

Justin Poore Credit: Press Association

The 29-year-old enjoyed a successful career in both Super League and the NRL which saw him make 209 appearances.

Poore joined Wakefield Wildcats before moving to Hull where he impressed Robins fans during his stay.

The Australian fractured his knee cap on Easter Monday against Catalan Dragons and despite having successful surgery and rehab, Poore has decided to return home.

Poore said: "It's never an easy call to make but I know it's the right decision for me, my family and for the club as well.

"My knee has been responding well to treatment but the feedback from the medical staff is that I run the risk of damaging it further if I was to return.

"The contact might mean I would never be able to walk properly again and that's not a risk I want to take."

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