Rugby League World Cup: Gareth Widdop hoping to have a greater say
Last Updated: 24/10/13 1:15pm
Gareth Widdop: Eager to start England's World Cup opener against Australia on Saturday
Gareth Widdop is eager to prove to head coach Steve McNamara he is worthy of a place in England's side for the Rugby League World Cup opener against Australia.
McNamara is expected to stick with his half-back pairing of Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase when he names his team this week, leaving Widdop and Rob Burrow to fight it out for a place on the bench alongside three forwards.
"I've played a number of years over there in first grade now and I definitely see myself as a starting player."
The Melbourne Storm player came off the bench in last Saturday's shock defeat to Italy in Salford, although he is crossing his fingers he features from the off in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium this weekend.
"Hopefully I do get a chance. That's what I want to be doing," said Widdop, who has completed a remarkable recovery from a dislocated hip to win a place in England's World Cup squad.
"I've played a number of years over there in first grade now and I definitely see myself as a starting player.
"We only got back (into camp) late last night and we haven't had a training session yet. I've no doubt either today or tomorrow we'll have a team in place that Steve thinks is right for the weekend."
As one of five England players based in the NRL, Widdop believes he can provide an insight into the opposition and in particular the Kangaroos play-making trio of Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, his team-mates at the Storm.
"There's a handful of us out there now," he said. "I've played alongside the main three - the half-back, hooker and the full-back - for the last three or four years so we do have a lot of insight on how they play.
"It's going to be one of the biggest games of our careers, playing in a World Cup against Australia at the Millennium. If we stick to our plan and our structures, we can beat them."
Widdop on Australia
"It's going to be hard to stop them but I definitely do think it helps me playing in that competition over there."
While Widdop waits to hear his fate, his NRL colleagues James Graham and brothers Sam and George Burgess are assured of places in the England team after enjoying hugely-successful seasons with their respective clubs in 2013.
Widdop is revelling in the potential chance to line up alongside the Burgess' instead of against them.
"It was great," he said. "I've played against them the last few years. After having big Sammy and now big George running at you, it's great to be alongside them.
"They've had great years and hopefully they will help the team out.
"George was unstoppable at times and hopefully he will bring that to the England team. He caused havoc over there so hopefully he can do it in the World Cup."
Widdop knows England will need to find a dramatic improvement on their 15-14 defeat by minnows Italy at Salford last Saturday if they are to open their campaign with a major scalp.
"It was unacceptable but it's been and gone and we have to move on," he said. "Luckily it wasn't round one of the World Cup.
"We're going to have to fix a lot of things up. Otherwise it's going to be hard for us.
"It's going to be one of the biggest games of our careers, playing in a World Cup against Australia at the Millennium. I think it's a great way to start the tournament off. If we stick to our plan and our structures, we can beat them."