Widdop wants whole nation to unite behind England
Gareth Widdop wants the nation’s backing as England prepare for their Rugby League World Cup 2013 opening showdown against Australia at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday (2.30pm).
England face the Kangaroos as part of a thrilling double-header, which also sees Wales take on Italy in the later kick-off (4.30pm), and which follows a must-see opening ceremony underneath the stadium’s closed roof.
Widdop, one of England’s cohort of NRL-based players, wants the nation to back England in their pursuit of a first World Cup win since 1972 as he believes the support will spur on Steve McNamara’s side.
“It is going to be a massive game and we are really looking forward to it,” said Widdop. “Obviously there was a slight hiccup against Italy but it was only a trial match and it is all part of it. We just have to get together and move one, and I am sure we will be fine.
“We have to move on now and hopefully we have got rid of that bad performance and we will definitely pick ourselves up for this week.
“It is going to be one of the biggest games that a lot of people have probably played in, apart from maybe the World Cup final that a couple of the guys played in against the Aussies.
“We have got a whole lot more support over here, being the host nation. All that extra support makes it feel that little bit more special. We haven’t had too much success as a nation in recent years really and it will be hard for teams travelling here, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
“The tournament is just going to be great for England. England and English athletes have been winning everything over the past few years, in every sport, so hopefully we can finish it off.
“The more support we get, the better. It definitely lifts you as players and as a team we just hope that the supporters get behind us and help us along the way.”
Despite being away from his immediate family, whom Widdop had to leave behind in Australia, the Halifax-born and raised half-back is now concentrating on preparations for Saturday.
“It does feel a little weird being in camp in England,” said Widdop. “It feels a little bit as though I am on a touring party because everyone in my family is back in Oz, and then the boys get to go back home to their families.
“But it is great that I get to come home and see the rest of my family, my uncles and aunties. It is good to be back but, at the same time, it is a bit weird living out of a suitcase for the next six-to-eight weeks.
“It is good here at Loughborough. I remember I came back a few years ago and, although it has changed a little bit, they are top facilities.
“It has been good this year, and the last few years to be honest, with the way we are looked after.
“We have got to make the most of these facilities, train to the best of our abilities, and take a lot out of our time here, because they put in a lot of time and effort here to accommodate us.
“During the week we will go over the way we want to play on Saturday but I think we have just got to focus on ourselves. We obviously can’t afford to play the way we did against Italy, but we will focus on the way we want to play and this week train to the best of our abilities.”