ENGLAND debutant Jermaine McGillvary last night said he is ready to prove coach Steve McNamara is right in handing him his chance in a crucial game that “doesn’t get much bigger.”
The Huddersfield Giants winger makes his international bow this lunchtime in the third, final and deciding Test against Four Nations champions New Zealand at Wigan. McGillvary, who, at the age of 27, has had to bide his time for his breakthrough, has all the credentials to succeed given he was Super League’s top try-scorer this year and rightly earned his first appearance in the Dream Team.
However, he has not featured against France or in the opening two Tests of the series against the revered Kiwis.
But with the series level at one-all, England having lost 9-2 in London a week ago, bold McNamara has now left out Wigan youngster Joe Burgess to accommodate the Huddersfield-born wideman, who had spells on loan with part-timers Barrow Raiders and Batley Bulldogs before enjoying his breakthrough year in 2011.
It is a critical game for McNamara who, it is thought, needs a series win, the first since Great Britain defeated the Kiwis eight years ago, to extend his contract beyond this autumn.
Talking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post last night, McGillvary admitted: “Steve’s not put me in for a game where there’s nothing to lose – this is the big one.
“He’s put me in at the deep end against the No 1 ranked team in the world to win a Test series – it doesn’t get much bigger!
“It just shows what belief he does have in me.
“Even though I didn’t play in any of the first three games he’d said right from the start – Steve always comes to talk to the boys separately – that he wouldn’t have any issues playing me at any point. And be ready to play.
“I appreciated that. The boys had played well against France and then won the first Test, too, so I didn’t expect things to change.
“But he’s given me that chance now and it’s up to me to take it.
“I’m happy to put pressure on myself.
“People might think I feel I need to have a stormer but I’m just going to go out and do what I’ve done all year, staying calm.”
McGillvary, who comes into the 19-man squad at the expense of unused Huddersfield team-mate Leroy Cudjoe, has needed to be patient over the last four weeks given McNamara, until now, had not changed his squad once.
“I was never really expecting it but I’ve wanted it more and more,” he added.
“I’ve worked hard all the time I’ve been here.
“I didn’t think I’d play at the start (of the autumn) but Steve came up to me earlier in the week and told me I was playing.
“He’d already spoken to Leroy and Leroy had said to me ‘Steve’s looking for you and wants to speak to you.’
“He just said straight away that I’m going to get my debut on Saturday.
“He told me he knew what I’m all about and now I just want to get out there now, play my normal game and treat it like any other – even though it’s the biggest game of my career.
“It is a dream come true.”
The England players were presented with their shirts by Lizzie Jones last night, the widow of former Keighley Cougars and Wales stand-off Danny Jones, who died from a heart attack during a game in May.
She will sing the national anthem at a sold-out DW Stadium today and McGillvary admitted: “She was inspirational.
“She did a little talk on how she came through the tragic event she’s been through and that puts everything into perspective – we’re just playing rugby.
“But, hopefully, we’ll get this win and it’ll be for her. Personally, it would mean the world to me.
“I’ve never won anything like this – a Test series.
“I’ve won the League Leader’s Shield (with Huddersfield in 2013) but this is the No 1 ranked team in the world.”
McGillvary, who scored 27 tries this season, including 13 in the Super 8s, a run that came to a halt in his club’s 32-8 defeat by Wigan at the DW Stadium, will face Jason Nightingale, the experienced 29-year-old St George Illawarra star, and added: “There’s not many better than him so it will be a huge test for me.
“But I want to test myself against a Jason Nightingale.
“He’s world-class and I want to see how I fare.”
Further previews: Page 7.