Connor expecting tougher challenge against New Zealand in Hull

Jake Connor.
Jake Connor.
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It has been a dream start to his England career but Jake Connor knows it will only get tougher as he waits to find out if he will get the nod to face New Zealand in Saturday’s first Test.

Hull’s 24-year-old utility back made an eye-catching debut against the Kiwis in the mid-season international in Denver and also impressed on his first start against France in Leigh last Wednesday.

England head coach Wayne Bennett has hinted that Connor has done enough to keep his place for the opening match of the three-Test series against the Kiwis, which will be on his home ground.

“He’s quite understated and doesn’t say much in camp but he’s multi-skilled and talented so he is a very good option for us,” said Bennett.

The former Huddersfield player said: “It’s been a good start.

“I obviously got off to a flyer in Denver against New Zealand and backed it up against France so it’s two wins out of two so far and hopefully I can keep that going.

“The first game is at the KCOM and what a place to start, it’s a big rugby city and I’m sure there will be plenty of fans turn out for it.”

Although England were 
36-18 winners in Colorado, it was against something of a makeshift Kiwis side thrown together by new coach Michael Maguire, but it was a transformed team that beat world champions Australia earlier this month.

They were boosted by the return of a string of seasoned internationals of the calibre of Jesse Bromwich and Shaun Johnson, along with exciting newcomers like Brandon Smith and Joseph Manu.

“It won’t be the same team we faced in Denver,” said Connor. “I watched them against Australia and I was very impressed by them.

“Obviously Shaun Johnson coming back into their side gives them a bit of direction and I’m sure more people will be on the edge of their seats when they see him play.

“He’s definitely one to keep an eye on. I like watching him. When he does something good, you think I wouldn’t mind doing something like that.”

There are shades of Johnson in Connor’s maverick style of play but he admits he may have to curb his natural instincts on the international stage and warns the Hull fans not to expect the cockiness he exudes in Super League.

“Obviously this is something different,” he said. “At club level, if I see something is on or I can use a bit of skill, I have got every confidence to do that.

“Sometimes you might have to just hold the pass in at international level and not force things because sometimes it doesn’t always pay off for you.

“I’ll probably never get comfortable at this level because I reckon, if you get too comfortable and take it for granted, one bad performance can put you out of the team so I’m always willing to learn and I’m always going to give 100 per cent.”

Englishman Robert Hicks has been appointed as referee at Hull.

The appointment confirms the demise of the neutral referee, with Australian Ashley Klein having controlled the recent Test between New Zealand and Australia in Auckland.

Hicks refereed this season’s Challenge Cup final and Super League Grand Final.