FOR ALL THE aspiring players who could debut for England this autumn – and there are a few candidates – if ever they require a reminder of just how to make the most of their chance they need only turn to Jermaine McGillvary.
It was just three years ago that the Huddersfield Giants winger made his own international bow at the relatively late age of 27.
McGillvary came in for the third and final Test against New Zealand and, at a rain-sodden Wigan, played his part in a 20-14 victory that secured England’s first series success in eight years.
He has not looked back since. Far from it; he was shortlisted for the Golden Boot as the world’s greatest player last year having scored seven tries for England on the way to a World Cup final in Brisbane.
“I always love playing against the Kiwis,” admitted McGillvary, ahead of Saturday’s opening Test in a three-match series with Michael Maguire’s tourists.
“The culture they bring, the haka and all that stuff... it sends shivers down your spine.
“I’ll always remember that first game in Wigan in 2015.
“But every time I’ve played against them they have been an absolutely quality side.
“It’s the same with Australia. We know what we’re coming up against.
They all play in the NRL and that’s for a reason – they’re top, world-class players and it’s always going to be tough no matter which team they bring across, they’ll be outstanding.
“The Kiwis beat Australia the other week, too, and that victory is just going to give them even more confidence against us.
“I’m really looking forward to playing them – if picked – and I know all the team are as well.”
For all of his careful wording, there should be no issues with McGillvary’s selection; it has not been his finest season with Huddersfield – not like when he finished Super League’s top try-scorer in 2015 – but previous performances warrant that he is in again for the opener.
It is only a public debate because of the consistent form of St Helens wideman Tommy Makinson, who was eye-catching on debut when England beat the Kiwis in Denver in June, and the brilliant first appearance of Wakefield Trinity’s Tom Johnstone, who scored a hat-trick in the 44-6 win over France on Wednesday.
However, England coach Wayne Bennett said after that game – and again in yesterday’s series launch press conference –that Johnstone might have to wait a little longer for his next cap.
But McGillvary, who also faced France with Makinson not risked, was certainly impressed by the 23-year-old.
“Like I said to him, the reason he is here is because of what he’s doing in Super League,” he said.
“He continued that and Wayne’s got a massive headache.
“There’s me, Tom Johnstone and Tommy Makinson. It’s good.
“That’s what we want in the England team; we want competition for places.
“We only want the best out there to get us a win so Wayne’s got a tough decision.
“We’re all doing well and working hard in training so it will be interesting to see what he goes with.”
At the KCOM Stadium in Hull on Saturday, England hope to recreate the sort of display shown in the first period against France when they eased into a 38-0 interval lead.
Huddersfield-born McGillvary, 30, said: “In the first half I think we completed at 85 percent.
“It was really good defensively. We were outstanding and our ball control was excellent .
“In the middle of the second half we went off course a little bit but a lot of us had not played for a while especially some of the Australian boys.
“They’d not played for about six weeks so it was a good blowout and a good test but now we’re looking forward to New Zealand.”
Meanwhile, England captain Sean O’Loughlin has ruled out a move to Leeds Rhinos and says he is staying at Wigan Warriors.
It was reported last week the legendary loose forward could end his career-long association with his hometown club in a dramatic switch to Headingley.
O’Loughlin, 35, is out of contract at the end of next month and was still in talks with Wigan who he recently led to another Super League Grand Final success.
However, he confirmed yesterday he is set to stay on at DW Stadium. Asked about his future at Wigan, O’Loughlin said: “Yeah hopefully that’s sorted out now.
“When you come out of contract you’re always hopeful there’s a bit of interest.
“The one where there was most noise was Leeds.
“I think it was just one of those things all this though, and hopefully it’ll be all signed and done soon.”