Ellis backing Heighington to perform


Gareth Ellis is backing his Wests Tigers team mate Chris Heighington to make an impression on his England debut against France on Friday.

Ellis has spent three seasons playing alongside Heighington, 28, and the former Leeds Rhino is confident the Aussie-born second-rower has what it takes to perform on the international stage.

“Not many people get the chance to play at the highest level so it is a massive honour for Chris,’’ Ellis said.

“There have been some great players who have never played Test football.

“The fact Chris has got English heritage through his father means there is an opportunity here for him now to represent England and the Heighington family. I think it is fantastic for him.

“It wasn’t a knee jerk reaction to pick Chris simply because he has played in the NRL. A lot of thought went into it by England Head Coach Steve McNamara and the fact he was born in Australia and would he fit into the dynamics of the England team.”

And Ellis, who was last month named Wests Tigers Player of the Year for the third consecutive season, is also convinced Heighington’s England compatriots are also keen to have him on deck.

Added Ellis: “Like any other nation, England is a proud nation and Steve had a lot of discussions with the senior players to find out whether it was the right decision for the team because that’s what is important and everyone came out with thumbs up.

“Chris should have represented NSW or Australia by now because he is certainly up to that level. He will be a huge asset for England.”