WITH another composed and impressive international performance against France, Hull FC’s Jake Connor has certainly made sure he was no one-hit wonder for England.
He operated at half-back as Wayne Bennett’s side eased to a 44-6 win over Les Tricolores on Wednesday, taking control of the side with real ease and underlining why he is earmarked as a player of real Test quality.
The first hint of that had come during his headline-grabbing debut against New Zealand in Denver in June when coming off the bench to score one brilliant solo try and create another two with piercing passes.
It seems certain the gifted 23-year-old will be in the England side once more when they face the Kiwis again in a week, fittingly at his own club Hull’s KCOM Stadium as an intriguing three Test series gets underway.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Connor said: “It was important I backed up from Denver. I had a good game there and I didn’t want to come here and just play average.
“That’s why this game was so important; I didn’t want to have one good game and then just drift in and out of this next one.
“I wanted to give Wayne a headache for selection and hopefully I do play next Saturday.
“I really enjoyed it against France. Obviously it was something we needed.
“A few of us needed to blow a few cobwebs off as some of us had not played for a while.
“Things came together in the first half. There was bit of position-mixing in the second and it probably fell off a little bit.
“But I thought our defence was great and our middles set the tone really for the game.”
Connor was able to showcase his skills on the back of that dominant first-half performance by his pack as they built up a 38-0 interval lead and he then showed great dexterity to rise high and claim Richie Myler’s chip to score their final try.
With his stellar distribution, running threat and kicking quality, it is easy to see why stand-off is the former Huddersfield Giants star’s favoured position.
He ordinarily plays centre for Hull, which is where many people envisage him featuring for England against the Kiwis given Kallum Watkins’s absence due to a knee reconstruction.
Connor linked well with Myler – the Leeds Rhinos No 7 playing his first England game since 2013 – against the French, but Bennett has a plethora of returning players to call on for the first Test against the tourists.
Wigan Warriors’ George Williams was rested after the Grand Final while St Helens’ Jonny Lomax – who Connor came on for when injured in Denver – is expected to be fit after nursing a knock.
Still, does he see half-back as the position in which he can really make his mark in the international arena? “It’s a tough one,” said Halifax-born Connor, whose own involvement was at risk when he suffered a serious hamstring injury in July. “There’s great half-backs in this team. You’ve just seen George Williams absolutely kill it in a Grand Final, Sam Tomkins can play half, obviously Richie had a good game against France, so there’s so many options.
“I’ll just do what I do. I’ll play the same every time I put a kit on, whether centre or half. I’m not going to complain, but probably soon I’d like to settle down in one position and that is one for me. But if you’re playing for your country you play anywhere.”
The last word goes to Bennett, the legendary Australian coach who rarely eulogises about players, so when praise comes it means something.
“Jake Connor is quite a player, that’s for sure,” he said. “He has a really good skill level and is a very good decision maker. He does a lot of good things. He was good in America and was good again tonight.” Praise, indeed.