England star Gareth Widdop believes that the national side are gaining more and more respect with the emergence of top English talent in the NRL – as he prepares to lead England into battle in the Four Nations this weekend.
Widdop will start at half-back alongside Matty Smith this Saturday against Samoa, after an impressive first year with St George following a switch from Melbourne Storm. And, after the likes of James Graham, Mike Cooper and the Burgess twins have also enjoyed strong seasons in Australia’s premier competition, he believes that they are proving that England are a talented side that are earning plenty of respect from their peers.
“I think the more English players that come down there, the more respect we gain,” Widdop told the BBC.
“It’s great to see players like the Burgess brothers and Graham playing in this competition, I think we’re gaining a lot more respect and last year [in the NRL] showed.
“We’re showing we are a good team and English players can succeed.”
Widdop admitted he was disappointed to have not played a bigger role in England’s last few international series – including last year’s World Cup. But he said that the semi-final defeat to New Zealand gave him a taste of international experience like never before, and he is keen to build on the World Cup this Autumn.
“The last few years I’ve been on the tours and probably been disappointed I haven’t managed to start all the games,” Widdop added.
“I played a number of games coming off the bench. It was great to play in that semi-final at the World Cup and hopefully I will get that opportunity again to start the game and make the most of it.
“Pulling on the England jersey is certainly a proud moment and it doesn’t come round too often so you have to make the most of it.”