St Helens team-mates Jack Welsby and Konrad Hurrell were training together only a few days ago, but the England ace is ready to go full ‘enemy’ mode against his Tongan counterparts now that the international autumn test series is upon us.
As confirmed earlier this week, 22-year-old Welsby will skipper Shaun Wane’s side on Sunday at the Totally Wicked Stadium, becoming England’s youngest-ever captain in the process.
The Wigan-born star will come up against Hurrell, as well as departing club-mate Will Hopoate in a Tonga side.
Additionally, Mate Ma’a Tonga are headed up by the man who first gave him his opportunity in the Red V, Kristian Woolf, assisted by none other than Saints head coach Paul Wellens.
Jack Welsby hoping to get one over on Tongan Saints with England this autumn
Always a jovial character, full-back Welsby spoke to Love Rugby League with a beaming smile at Tuesday’s pre-series press conference, and is relishing the chance to go up against the names mentioned above along with some NRL talents.
He said: “I spoke to Woolfy, Koni and Hoppa when I got in here today and it’s something we’re all looking forward to.
“It’s a great series, it was circled in the diary as soon as it was announced, and I just made sure they are enemy number one this week – all three of them – and you can add Wello into that as well!
“Me and Koni actually trained together on Friday. He was running, getting ready to come into the Tongan camp, and all three of us came into Saints together – me, him and Hoppa. I was trying to beat him and leave him behind!
“I think they’ve got some really accomplished NRL players, some outstanding talent, and some big bodies that we’re going to have to take care of. It’s a massive test for us, a massive test for everyone involved, and something we’re looking to thrive on.
“Wello made sure it was alright with us all, I said you can do as long as you give us some insight on what they’re doing! It’s all good, I think it’s a good opportunity for him and one that he couldn’t turn down going over there and seeing a different side.
“Obviously he’s worked under Woolfy before and we had a lot of success so it can only do him well.”
England ace Welsby didn’t book holiday to ensure he’d be ready for international duty
The three-game series – which will see England host Tonga on home soil for the first time since 2006 – comes straight on the back of a gruelling Super League campaign.
Saints saw their domination end as Catalans Dragons beat them dramatically in the semi-final a fortnight ago, putting a stop to a ‘drive for five’. Accordingly, Welsby had the chance to get away for a few days, but chose not to so he could be 100 per cent ready for Shaun Wane’s call.
He continued: “I sort of had a week off, but Waney rung me midweek saying I was in the team, so I’ve just been ticking over getting a couple of sessions in on my own on a lonely field. It’s obviously been a tough week.
“I didn’t want to book anything (holidays) just in case I was in, not that I was expecting to be in almost. I just wanted to make sure that I was in and look after this first, when this was announced it was circled in the diary straight away.
“It’s a really exciting squad, there’s that mix of experience and youth, and I’m really looking forward to getting on the field with those boys with hopefully some first caps along the way.”