RYAN HALL is England’s most prolific player, but he insisted he was still sweating on his World Cup spot “every day” this year.
The Leeds Rhinos winger is Down Under now preparing for the tournament, which starts against Australia in Melbourne a week on Friday.
At 29, he has seen it all before and has scored 32 tries in as many Tests for his country.
Indeed, if England are to finally lift the trophy for the first time in nearly half a century, you would expect Hall needs to continue that impressive strike rate.
However, having seen the likes of Castleford Tigers’ Greg Eden score 41 tries this term, St Helens’ Tommy Makinson enjoy such a fine campaign and Wigan’s Joe Burgess press his claims, did he ever worry about being overtaken?
Hall admitted: “Yes. Every day. Seriously, you can never predict where you will end up at the end of the season.
“You can only hope for the best. I have to perform on the field the best I can to get an England shirt and in terms of scoring tries it hasn’t been the best this year.
“But it’s not about that. It’s about all the other things that go into the game for a modern-day winger.
“You’re more like a forward than a winger now.”
Hall mustered just 14 tries in 34 games for Leeds this term, but has always prided himself on his work in back-field – kick-returns and starting sets well for his side.
“Even back in 2009 when I ended up top try-scorer I always deflected that straight away as I knew that wasn’t the important thing,” he said.
“It was about providing something for my team not being just someone on the end of things.”
Just as during last year’s Four Nations, England coach Wayne Bennett has named only two wingers in his 24-man squad – Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary being the other –meaning Hall knows he is almost guaranteed a Test place.
He added: “It is good from a peace of mind point of view. A lot of the time there is a cloud over your head... am I playing this week, am I not... things like that.
“With me and Jerry just there as wingers it’s good that he has shown real confidence in us being the only two in the squad.”
Under veteran Australian Bennett, England play a warm-up game against Affiliated States on Friday as they fine-tune to face the holders.
Hall – who won his seventh Grand Final with Leeds last Saturday – knows they have to improve on last year’s poor showing when they failed to reach the Four Nations final on home soil.
“We’re into the second year now with Wayne and we all get him a bit more,” he said.
“We understand where he’s coming from a little bit more, have the experience we had last year and seen some new faces in over the last 12 months, which is good to see keep things fresh.
“He’s talked about errors and cutting them out.
“I think we only have to go back a few days to see the English Grand Final.
“Castleford were brilliant all year, but they just made so many errors in the game. The ball was wet. We know that, but still...
“It’s one of the fundamentals of rugby. You can’t spill the ball.”