IT HAS been some time since Ryan Hall last faced an audition for an England place.
In all fairness, the prolific Leeds Rhinos winger – now entering his 10th season of international representation – probably still does not have to.
However, if he did want to produce a high-class display, just to remind England coach Wayne Bennett of his enduring quality, tonight would perhaps be a perfect time to do so.
The defending champions, struggling in seventh, host leaders St Helens at Emerald Headingley when Hall will come face-to-face with a man who hopes to make his England debut on the wing in America next Saturday.
Tommy Makinson has been in brilliant form for Saints, rightly earning his place in Bennett’s 19-man squad that flies out to Denver ahead of the historic Test match versus New Zealand.
Granted, he has a battle on to make the actual Test side; Hall is England’s record scorer with 34 tries in just 37 games for his country and Super League’s biggest metre-maker this term despite Leeds’s ongoing woes.
On the right flank, where Makinson naturally plays, Bennett has Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary, who was nominated for the Golden Boot last year after his stunning heroics at the World Cup.
Both incumbents are now aged 30 and you sense the impressive Saints player, four years younger, will eventually – if not next week – one day replace one of them in the international fold.
However, World Cup finalist Hall can see how the 80 minutes ahead could act as a late test.
“I suppose so; Tommy is in good form at the moment and congratulations to him for actually getting this little step further,” Hall told The Yorkshire Post.
The performances aren’t good enough and the only way through it is hard work. We will come through I’m sure.Ryan Hall
“I don’t know if he’ll go the full step but he has been in a couple of ETS’s (elite training squads) before and to now be included in a 19-man squad ready to take on the Kiwis is another progression for him.
“He’s been great and I’m not going to say for one minute that’s the reason Saints have been good but he’s certainly contributed throughout the season for them.”
Hall, who debuted for England in 2009, accepts there is pressure on him and McGillvary, who has had an interrupted campaign due to injuries.
“Of course there is (pressure),” he added.
“All three of us don’t know if we’re playing or not. But Wayne’s a good coach and he makes the squad work.
“We’ve seen that in the World Cup; he made all the 24-man squad part of it and everyone felt that.
“I’m sure there won’t be any issues with that and he’ll outline straight away what the issues are and what we’re going to shape up like, so it won’t be too long before we know what’s happening.”
Hall met up with Makinson, McGillvary and the rest of the England squad in Bury on Tuesday as they began initial preparations for the game in Colorado.
However, the most pressing matter is arresting Leeds’s poor form as they seek to avoid a fifth straight Super League defeat.
Doing so with a raft of injuries and against Saints, who are on an eight-match winning run and have five players in that England squad, will not be simple.
Indeed, it is easy to understand why some Rhinos fans fear eventually slipping into the Qualifiers, which happened the last time they were champions in 2016.
“Every year is different but there are similarities in there,” conceded Hall, who eventually helped them stave off the threat of relegation.
“We’re struggling a bit but trying not to think about what happened that year! We started the season quite healthily and played well in glimpses but nowhere near consistently enough.
“It’s a challenge now to get back to those winning ways looking at the injury list we have got. Even putting that to one side, the performances aren’t good enough and the only way through it is hard work. We will come through I’m sure.”
Saints, meanwhile, have included all five of their England call-ups: Makinson, the effusive Jonny Lomax, strike centre Mark Percival, uncapped prop Luke Thompson and evergreen hooker James Roby.
Hall said: “They are doing really well and it’s hard to argue that they’re not going to be there at the end of the year.
“They are so consistent and keep picking up wins week in, week out.
“They do play a good style as well, I suppose. I think it’s similar to Saints in 2006 when they won the treble and played really well, cutting through.
“They have great individuals in there as well, which obviously helps the team performance.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge come Friday. But we have to start winning somewhere – and it will be great to do it then.”
If Leeds did, it would arguably be one of the shocks of the season – but make that trip to the US all the more enjoyable for Hall.