Versatile Wardle stays grounded amid talk of England call-up

Huddersfield Giants' Joe Wardle.
Huddersfield Giants' Joe Wardle.
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IT SEEMS an absurd question, but what are Joe Wardle’s chances of an England call-up?

The Huddersfield Giants centre, is, of course, a Scotland international and has been since debuting with them in 2010.

He played with Scotland again last year and, though missing the 2013 World Cup due to injury, does have six caps and one try to his name.

Yet everyone knows, given the peculiarities of the international eligibility process, it does not necessarily mean he has to represent them again in the future.

Wardle is a Yorkshireman, born and bred in Halifax, schooled at nearby Bradford Bulls where he graduated from their Academy in 2010 and now, aged 23, playing perhaps the best football of his career with their West Yorkshire rivals.

Having impressed once more in Thursday night’s 40-26 win over Castleford Tigers, amid all the talk of Huddersfield’s prolific winger Jermaine McGillvary getting an England call-up, there was just as much discussion about Wardle’s own prospects of potentially being drafted into the squad to face the Kiwis this autumn.

He has shown his versatility this year by filling in at second-row and looking every inch a Super League forward, the role certainly suiting him given his defensive steeliness and incessant work-rate.

Yet Wardle showed again versus Castleford, when he scored one classy try and created another for winger Aaron Murphy with a fine pass, that he has all the attributes to be a centre of note, too.

Just ask thwarted Mike McMeekan, the big Castleford second-row who was left rooted to the spot by Wardle’s angle of running in the 18th minute and realised the only way to stop him was by tripping.

That cost him 10 minutes in the sin-bin and his side 20 points as they slumped from 10-0 up to 20-10 down.

After the win, asked if he would contemplate representing England, Wardle told The Yorkshire Post: “Who knows? Anything could happen.

“Steve McNamara’s not been in touch or anything. At the minute my heart is with Scotland and we’ll see what happens.

“I’ve been in an England Knights squad before but had to pull out as I needed surgery.

“As for now, I don’t want to think ahead of myself too much in case nothing does happen.

“I just want to keep doing what I am doing and if Scotland want me, I’m happy to play with them. If England do, then we’ll see what happens.”

Thursday’s victory, meanwhile, augmented Huddersfield’s place in third spot and keeps the pressure on Wigan Warriors, just a point ahead in second, as the battle for a home semi-final heats up.

Success meant Giants have also dented Castleford, one of their biggest rivals for the semi-finals, having now gone four points clear of Daryl Powell’s side with just three Qualifiers games remaining.

But Wardle, who turns 24 later this month, was not overly impressed by the manner of the performance.

“We played a bit dumb,” he said.

“We started really well and then totally took our foot off the gas and completely let Cas’ back in it (Tigers trailed just 24-20 at one point).

“If you give them too much ball they are a good side and are not where they are for no reason. We proved what our character was like, though, to get that win.

“And it was quite surreal what we did when Cas were down to 12 men.

“It was only afterwards I realised we’d scored four tries in that 10-minute spell.

“There was some great football from us and we played to the advantage looking where the missing man was and then took the chances.

“I do think we are building really well at the moment and if we can keep going I think we’ll be a really strong force at the end of the year.

“But we’ve got to keep grounded and not get carried away with what could happen.”

Huddersfield do know, though, they are better placed than arguably ever before to go on and reach a maiden Grand Final.

And if Wardle continues at his own rate of development it will be hard for McNamara, who gave him his debut as an 18-year-old at Bradford shortly before he left to take over as England coach, to ignore him much longer.