Widdop 'ready' for England
Young full-back relishing step up to international rugby
Last Updated: June 8, 2010 4:18pm
Widdop: England debut
Full back Gareth Widdop believes he has had the finest preparation available ahead of his England debut against France this weekend.
"I feel I'm ready. I know I've only played a small number of first-grade games but the lower grades in Australia are still very strong"
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Because, for over a year, the 21-year-old from Halifax has been learning from the best in the business in his role as understudy to Billy Slater at Melbourne Storm.
Widdop's big chance to step into his mentor's illustrious boots came when the 2008 Golden Boot winner was injured for the recent game against Canterbury Bulldogs.
And the 2009 National Under-20s fullback of the year did not disappoint, claiming a try and three conversions to help Storm romp to a 23-12 victory.
Widdop believes that running out for England at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday will be nothing compared to that nerve-wracking experience at Melbourne's new AAMI Park Stadium.
"Obviously it's going to be tough," he said. "But I think I was more nervous about playing NRL than I will be playing this match simply because I've got Billy Slater in front of me and there were a lot of expectations on me.
"I feel I'm ready. I know I've only played a small number of first-grade games but the lower grades in Australia are still very strong.
"We still get players who have played NRL week in, week out."
Widdop, who was on Halifax's scholarship before emigrating with his family to Australia aged 16, flew into England with Wests Tigers second rower Gareth Ellis at the weekend.
The pair met up with Steve McNamara's national squad at their Manchester camp on Monday, where they will be joined by fellow English exile Sam Burgess of South Sydney, who arrives on Wednesday.
Widdop is looking forward to getting to know his new team-mates, but there are already a couple of faces that are familiar to the Yorkshireman - namely veteran forwards Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock.
"I used to support the Bulls when Peacock was there," he said. "So playing alongside him now is a dream come true really. I used to like the way he played.
"He came and introduced himself. He's a good bloke, a good fella."