Goulding primed for debut

England winger Darrell Goulding is remaining calm and quietly confident as he faces the biggest challenge of his career in Wellington tomorrow.

The 22-year-old Wigan Warriors flier is poised to make his Test debut in the Four Nations fixture against New Zealand at Westpac Stadium where he will come up against the world champions’ giant winger Manu Vatuvei.

Vatuvei played a key role in demolishing England’s World Cup hopes two years ago and will be a key weapon in the Kiwi’s arsenal as they look to avenge last year’s Four Nations defeat.

Goulding, however, is unfazed at being given the responsibility to negate Vatuvei’s threat and a player who scored 25 tries this season – a total beaten only by his Wigan team-mate Pat Richards – is looking forward to causing problems of his own.

“I have seen Vatuvei play a few times and know that he’s a very good player,” said Goulding. “He’s probably rated as the best winger in the world right now.

“He likes scoring tries and it’s going to be my job to stop him. I’m looking forward to it.

“Playing against the best brings out the best in you and if that happens on my debut then what more could I ask for?

“He’s a dangerous player for them but I have played against a lot of good wingers and done all right. This is the sort of challenge you want.”

Goulding was promoted to coach Steve McNamara’s starting line up after Leeds winger Ryan Hall pulled a hamstring in training on Tuesday and now, having been given his chance, he has no intention of relinquishing his spot.

“I want to plays as well as I can and keep my place to play against Australia next week, of course I do,” he said.

“I’m not looking that far ahead though, my focus is just on playing well myself and letting the Kiwis worry about me.

“I always hoped I’d get the chance but if I’m honest I suspected I might be here for the experience with the coach having one eye on the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

“The nature of the game is that injuries happen and when they do they create opportunities for people. It’s come quicker than I thought really and I’m going to make the most of it.”

His international bow will provide the latest chapter in the remarkable career of a player who was only last year seemed to be surplus to requirements at Wigan.

However the arrival of a new coach in Michael Maguire has helped bring about a sea change in the form of both Goulding and his team-mates.

“It’s been a strange couple of years for me. Last season I was playing on-loan at Salford and not figuring in the Wigan coach’s plans and now here I am about to make my Test debut,” he said.

“The change of coach has helped me, Michael gave me my chance early in the season when he said if I played well I’d keep my spot.

“Since then I’ve not looked back really. I have been lucky enough to play in a team which creates chances out wide and when your team has played as well as we have it’s easier to get noticed.

“Michael has been a big influence but it’s not just him; it’s also people like Shaun Wane and Kris Radlinski and everyone else who have transformed the nature of the club.

“It’s not just me, there are a lot of people who have improved this year.

“You only have to look at Stuart Fielden, he’s had a lot of critics in the last few years but now he’s back to his best.

“It shows the hard work everyone has put in has paid off.”

Goulding has taken the transition from club rugby to the international stage in his stride and quickly settled in to life as a New Zealand and Australia tourist when he flew out with the rest of the squad two weeks ago.

He admits that familiarity has helped breed contentment on tour but his sense of ease extends further than the mere presence of four of his Wigan team-mates.

“It’s nice having other Wigan players here,” he said. “I have grown up playing with Sam and Joel Tomkins at Wigan St Pats and the Wigan Academy and I’ve known Sean O’Loughlin for years.

“Having your close mates around on your first team has certainly helped me settle in but so have the other players, they’ve been great with me.”

Saturday’s Four Nations game, New Zealand v England, will be televised live on BBC1 from 7.30am and on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra from 7.50am.

The match will also be shown on Sky Sports 1 at 11.00am.

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