HAVING waited more than three weeks to get his first taste of World Cup action, Hull FC prop Scott Taylor knows he must now grab his rare opportunity with Wayne Bennett’s England.
The Beverley-born forward always realised he would face a battle to get into the Test 17 given the likes of James Graham, Chris Hill, Tom Burgess, Alex Walmsley and Sam Burgess were all included in the 24-man squad that set off Down Under last month.
Indeed, he did not feature in either of their opening games against Australia or Lebanon but, with Bennett deciding to make sure all his group get at least one match under their belts, Taylor does face France tomorrow.
Moreover, the head coach insists places are still up for grabs in the quarter-final next weekend if, as fully expected, they overcome Les Tricolores in Perth.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Taylor said: “I’m obviously over the moon to get my first taste of World Cup rugby. I didn’t want to come out here and not get the chance to show what I can do.
“I was obviously gutted to miss out on the first two games as I thought I’d trained as best as I can and given everything I have.
“But obviously it’s a 24-man squad and it’s really hard to pick a 17 from it. But I get my chance to show what I can do this Sunday.
“I’ve been training as hard as I can, hopefully I’ll get plenty of game-time and try push on for that quarter-final as I want to be involved in as many games as I can out here.”
Taylor, who will start on the bench in England’s final group game, is relishing the opportunity especially given he flew to Australia with England in May for the mid-season Test against Samoa only to, again, not make the 17.
Indeed, the 26 year-old’s only appearance on this tour was in the warm-up opener against Affiliated States but there is no denying he is international quality; it is simply the calibre of front-row at Bennett’s disposal that has limited his game-time so far.
Taylor, who only made his Test debut last year ahead of the Four Nations, has enjoyed another terrific season for Hull, helping them to consecutive Challenge Cup final victories.
One of four remaining unused players – St Helens centre Mark Percival, Warrington stand-off Kevin Brown and Castleford Tigers’ second-row Mike McMeeken being the others – to line-up, he expects their opponents to bring their usual physical game.
Admittedly, France’s hopes of qualification are all but gone after a 29-18 loss to Lebanon was followed by last week’s 52-6 evisceration against holders Australia.
But ex-Hull KR and Wigan Warriors star Taylor insisted: “They haven’t got anything to lose really. They’ll come out firing. Quite a few of us play against each other regularly in Super League and they have some good talent there.
“They’ll be revved up and probably wanting to finish their World Cup on a high while knowing if they did win they could still maybe make it themselves into the quarter-finals. My first cap last year was against them at their place and the scoreline (40-6) didn’t reflect the game itself. It was a real tough battle especially in the middle.
“We just want to keep improving each week. I think we got a bit better in the win against Lebanon and stuff we didn’t necessarily do great there we’ve been practicing hard this week.”
Some of Taylor’s Hull colleagues are also involved at the World Cup with second-rows Mark Minichiello and Sika Manu captaining Italy and Tonga respectively and winger Mahe Fonua also in the Tonga squad. However, there has been no meet-up of the Black and Whites contingent who are back Down Under for a Super League game against Wigan in Wollongong next February followed by a Sydney tie with St George Illawarra.
Taylor said: “I went down to Wollongong for a promo’ with Lockers (Wigan and England captain Sean O’Loughlin.)
“It’s a great ground, bang on the hill next to the beach and that will be excellent. But I’ve not caught up with the rest of the lads. It’s not worked out really; our games haven’t been in the same places.
“There’s a lot of Hull FC fans living in Perth, though, so I’ve bumped into a few of them in the street had a chat with them and a catch-up with who I can.
“But you don’t get as much time as you’d think.
“It’s not a holiday; the training days are tough and, by the time you’re finished, especially in the heat, you just want to chill out for the rest of the day really, relax and get your body right.
“It’s been a really good tour so far, though, seeing the things we’ve seen and being based in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
“The only downside for me has not been playing so much. But now I have my chance.”