Switch to hooker has helped further my international career

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It’S always great to represent your country and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for the last few years now.

I’ve not played since the 2008 World Cup but I’ve got that opportunity again in this International Origin.

I got the phone call straight after last year’s Grand Final win that I was in the Four Nations squad but there was no way I could play.

My ribs had been bad for a while and I’d been playing with injections for weeks so they needed resting.

I was determined to get back in, though, and just hoped, after finishing last season well with Leeds, I could start this one the same way.

But getting picked for England is not something you really think about a lot. You just want to play well for your club and then, hopefully, the rest follows.

Switching to hooker has helped me, I reckon, when it comes to international football.

I like to jump out of dummy-half with my running game – which is one of my strong points – but I can offer another option as well (being a scrum-half).

It’s been going really well all week in training and we just put the finishing touches to everything (yesterday) ready for a very strong Exiles squad.

My greatest international memories have to be from 2007 when, as Great Britain, we defeated New Zealand 3-0.

That year couldn’t have gone any better. It was my best season at Leeds, where I won player of the year and we beat Saints in the Grand Final.

I got the Harry Sunderland Trophy as MOM at Old Trafford and then carried it on into the internationals when I won player of the series.

It was just a fantastic tournament and the first time I’d ever been involved as a starting figure on the international stage.

Twelve months later, obviously the experience didn’t go great for us but it was a major thing for me to be involved in a World Cup in another country like we did as England. People may think 2006, when I didn’t play a single game on the Tri-Nations GB tour to Australia and New Zealand, must have been a huge disappointment.

Obviously, I wanted to play but I can’t moan too much about that; the squad was full of quality players – Sean Long, Leon Pryce, Danny McGuire – and it was a big experience for me as I’d never been away with the international first team before. What I learned was invaluable and I was just happy to be a part of it all but things have moved on now and I’ve gained a lot since.

I’m not sure what sort of game time I’ll get on Saturday but I just want to leave my mark on the match and add some impact.

The Exiles are clearly very strong especially at half-back. Scotty Dureau has been fantastic since signing for Catalan while we all know what Tommy Leuluai can do as he’s been performing for years with Wigan.

They are pivotal players with a massive influence but there’s no point mentioning the Exiles’ pack – they are all huge, strong forwards with plenty of class.

On our side, I’m really pleased for my Leeds team-mate Carl Ablett, who makes his debut. He’s doing fine in camp and looking forward to it. Last year, he was in a similar situation to me in 2006.

He was in the Four Nations squad but didn’t get a game and so had a long, long six weeks training. He also had to miss his own stag-do.

But he gained a lot from it, all about being in an international camp, and now he gets his chance. Carl’s been fantastic for Leeds these last couple of years and really deserves it.

Like me, and all the Leeds lads in camp, we’ll be hoping to come through unscathed so we can also then double up against Wakefield on Monday night and get our own season back on track.

Interview by Dave Craven.