England coach Shaun Wane has revealed Kallum Watkins will play as a centre rather than second-row, because he has been a “pain in the backside” there against Wigan in the past.
The Salford star capped a remarkable season of resurgence by being named in a 24-man World Cup squad, having impressed for Paul Rowley’s side since his move into the pack.
But while excited by his versatility, Wane still sees Watkins as a centre.
“I do like players who can play two positions,” said the England boss.
“He’s always been a pain in the backside for me as a centre when he played for Leeds against Wigan. I appreciate he’s an unbelievable talent and a great lad to work with. I do see him as a centre. But if you see his form this year as a back-row, it’s a great asset to us as England.”
Kallum Watkins thought England chance had passed
For Watkins himself, just being part of the squad is a chance he thought had passed him by when he suffered another devastating knee injury.
“At the start of the year I was in rehab with my ACL,” he explained. “I didn’t think the opportunity would come. For me it was just about getting back playing and getting my confidence back.
“Playing in the back-row was an opportunity at Salford and the year I’ve had with Salford has been great, and the guys at Salford have been great, which made my performances better and gave me the opportunity to be in the (England) squad.
“Whatever position I’m in, it’s England. I want to win the World Cup and the team wants to win the World Cup, so whatever position I’m in, even if I’m a squad player, I’ll do whatever I can for the team because the team is the most important thing.”
Red Devils rising
Watkins is one of three Salford players rewarded for the club’s stunning run to the Super League semi-finals. Scrum-half Mark Sneyd and Andy Ackers are called up for the first time.
“They’ve been brilliant,” Watkins added.
“Marc Sneyd is a quality operator and them two have been really emotional about being given the opportunity. I felt like they deserve it after the year they’ve had this year. I feel like Salford as a club deserve it as well.
“We’ve had some tough times over the past couple of years but we’re now competing to be in finals so those two players have been a massive contribution this year. They deserve to be in the England squad.”