World Cup build-up: Alex Walmsley aims to make new son so proud

New father: England's Alex Walmsley.
New father: England's Alex Walmsley.
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YOU would think the only downside for giant prop Alex Walmsley on his England World Cup call-up and potential international debut is leaving his new-born son for almost two months.

The national squad flies out to Australia today to embark on their bid to lift the trophy for the first time since Great Britain did so in 1972.

However, it emerges Atticus – just five weeks old – is actually going to join his father, the St Helens forward who hails from Dewsbury and was plucked from Leeds Metropolitan University by Batley Bulldogs five years ago.

Walmsley famously came off early in Saints’ crucial televised game at Wakefield Trinity last month to rush to the hospital (still in full playing attire) only to narrowly miss the arrival of his first-born.

He does not want to miss out on much more.

Talking to The Yorkshire Post about fatherhood, the 27-year-old admitted; “I’m loving it. I really am. It’s been such a great five weeks from the experience of the night of his birth (he found out afterwards Saints had edged home 18-16) to where we are now. Seeing him grow has been amazing.

“It’s quite daunting the prospect of leaving him for seven weeks but he’s going to be flying out, too, and, hopefully, that will make it easier.

“I think once he’s had his eight weeks injections, he can can come over; as soon as he’s out of the doctors he’ll be off to the airport.”

Uncapped Walmsley’s inclusion in Wayne Bennett’s 24-man squad has been warmly welcomed; statistically, he has been the leading front-row in Super League with more metres (4256) and carries (526) than anyone.

At 18st, 6ftt 5in tall and with his ability to shrug off defenders at will, it is fascinating to imagine the leg-pumping forward launching himself into the Kangaroos.

England are not short of quality props but the fact South Sydney’s George Burgess has been left out of the travelling party and Hull FC’s Liam Watts has not even made the elite training squad, shows just how highly-rated Walmsley is.

It is deserved, too, especially given he flew to Sydney with England in May for their week-long trip, hoping to debut only to then not be selected in the match-day 17 against Samoa.

Asked if Bennett spoke to him about that frustrating exclusion or detailed how he said he might need to improve to gain selection, Walmsley said: “I’ll probably keep that between myself and Wayne. But 20 doesn’t go into 17 just as in this tournament 24 won’t go into 17 either.

“Unfortunately, someone had to miss out and it was my turn in May. But what it did was really ignite my hunger to represent my country and, hopefully, get that opportunity.

“I feel better for it having missed out v Samoa; to have been so close and not get the opportunity I’m better for it as a player and as a person. Hopefully, that will put me in good stead for the World Cup.

“I really was over the moon to get the call this week and I am really proud of myself.”

Walmsley’s form was one of the reasons Saints made a late push to sneak into the top-four before losing that dramatic golden-point extra-time semi-final defeat at League Leaders Castleford.

He is joined by club colleagues Jonny Lomax, Mark Percival and James Roby on the flight to Perth ahead of their warm-up game against Affiliated States next Friday.

If he does make his England bow it will cap a meteoric rise for the marauding forward who only made his professional debut with Batley approaching his 22nd birthday.

Late-starter Walmsley had been spotted playing for amateurs Dewsbury Celtic and starring for Leeds Metropolitan University where he qualified as a quantity surveyor.

Batley’s John Kear took a punt and the prop won the 2012 Championship Young Player of the Year in his debut campaign, form that earned him his Super League deal.

At Saints, he made rapid progress, too, winning the 2014 Grand Final, having proved an instant hit in Super League. An England call-up almost seemed inevitable.

Walmsley has the likes of NRL legends James Graham and Sam Burgess plus Warrington captain Chris Hill and Hull FC’s Scott Taylor rivalling him for a prop role.

“As a nation, we’re very fortunate to be gifted with arguably the best pack in the world, if not one of them,” he said. “It is really tough competition. Look at the players in the NRL – Sam and Tom Burgess, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Hodgson and James Graham, then over here there’s Scott Taylor, Chris Hill and Sean O’Loughlin.

“It bodes well for us. It will be tough for me to break into but, as I always say, I’m not here to make up the numbers.”

The Yorkshireman has not ruled out an NRL move although he still has another 12 months remaining on his St Helens deal.

His main objective, though, is to join the Burgess brothers to help replicate the achievement of Mike Stephenson, a fellow son of Dewsbury, who lifted the World Cup almost half-a-century ago.

If England do prosper, Walmsley’s own son will, hopefully, be there to see history being made.