AFTER missing out on last season’s Four Nations tournament due to injury, Saints’ Jon Wilkin is relishing the chance to get back into the international fold after he was today named in England coach Steve McNamara’s 22-man squad to face the Exiles at Headingley Carnegie Stadium on Friday, June 10 (8.00pm).
Wilkin, who made his international debut against Australia in 2006, has urged fans to get behind England and to turn out in force to support their country when the two sides clash next week in a contest that he believes will be a tough test for the England squad.
“It’s a great feeling to be back with England,” said Wilkin. “I think with the new set-up we’ve got, the aim is for England to be the elite of Rugby League and everything about the new ETS system has that feeling about it.
“It’s a great environment to be in and you get everything you need to be successful and hopefully we can translate that into success on the pitch.
“For the players, any international game is a massive occasion and we need everyone involved in the game to embrace test matches and start filling stadiums and I think the Exiles game is a great way at exciting the fans.
“The Exiles have got a very strong squad and I think the game will be ferocious and very physical. As players we all want to see a full house with a great atmosphere and the fans roaring us on and creating an event for everyone in the sport to be proud of and an event that everyone wants to be a part of.”
After returning to the England system earlier this year, Wilkin has been particularly impressed with the new structures that have been created within the England set-up by McNamara since his last involvement with the senior side and he believes the work that’s currently being done will help the future of English Rugby League as a whole.
“As professional sports people, we all want to be winners and for a long time at International level we haven’t been winners,” he said. “So it was important for people to look at the system and I think everybody recognised there was a need for change.
“It’s not a quick fix, but the new pathway set-up for players is important because it gives young players a direct path to the top level from joining an amateur team, playing Academy rugby and getting into the England youth sides and that’s something which maybe in the past has been neglected.
“We all want England to be the best and on our day, the England side could fill any stadium. But we need the fans to show up and the side to perform in order to encourage that so it’s time both the supports and the team got themselves in order and the Exiles contest is the first step in that direction.”
Pre-purchased tickets for the International Origin match start from £19 for adults and £12 for concessions and are available at www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or by contacting the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113. Tickets purchased on the day of the match start from £22 for adults and £15 for concessions.