Ben Flower believes he and other Welsh players are good enough to be selected for Great Britain this autumn, but does not want call-ups to be handed out as token gestures, to fill a potential non-English quota.
The composition of Wayne Bennett’s Lions squad for the southern hemisphere tour this autumn is yet to be determined, with it being unclear whether or not there will be mandatory places available for players from Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Flower, however – one of Wales’ best players – insists that he has no interest in going on the tour if he is selected solely because of his nationality, rather than his ability.
“I don’t want to be put in simply because I’m Welsh,” he said.
“You want to be in because you’re good enough. And I want to be playing, not just `in the squad’ – if that is the case, don’t pick me.
“There shouldn’t be places just given out because we’re Welsh, Irish or Scottish. If we’re not good enough, then fine, but as I said, I believe I am good enough – as are a few others.”
Flower also believes that the return of the Lions (for the first time in over a decade) could have a huge impact on the growth of the game in Wales below professional level.
“There are more and more kids playing the game at amateur level in Wales,” he said, “so I hope this Lions tour will give them a real incentive.
“You’ve only got four professional Rugby Union teams in Wales, so a lot of lads get left aside when it comes to signing up talent. The return of a Great Britain side, and getting some Welsh lads into that, can hopefully make people aware of Rugby League as a path into representative rugby, which will give kids an incentive to give this game a go.”
Flower has started the season impressively for Wigan despite the Warriors’ early-season struggles. He is hoping to do enough to do enough to persuade Bennett to give him a place in the squad for the Lions tour.
“It’s difficult playing for Wales, when you know that most of the time you are not going to come up against the best opposition there is,” he said. “You don’t play in the biggest games.
“Playing internationally should be the highlight of your career, but for me at present it isn’t. So if I got a chance to play for Great Britain against the best teams in the world it would be incredible.
“I feel that I’m good enough to be considered, without a doubt.
“So I think for me, the timing – now – is pretty ideal. While I’m playing at my best. The older I get, the fewer opportunities there will be for me to do it.”