This week, I’ve been in camp with the Exiles ahead of the International Origin match against England at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday.
It’s fairly similar to when I’ve been in camp with New Zealand. It’s a representative team with players of a high calibre with lots of experience, who have played in plenty of big games. Training has been pretty crisp.
You look around and there’s Steve Menzies, he’s pushing 40 but running around and looking really good. It’s inspiring to play with these guys. Rhys Hanbury and Joel Moon are both young guys who’ve been playing really well for their clubs, so there’s been a good mix of toughness and skill, youth and experience.
We’re excited for the game, we’re all playing well and the skill factor of the group as a whole is excellent.
We’ve been coached this year by Brian McClennan, who I worked with in the New Zealand set-up in 2005 and 2006. We did really well in 2005, although I missed out on selection in 2006 after not playing too many games due to injury. Bluey is a good mate, and it was good to catch up and chat about the good times in the past, and hopefully we can create another one of those on Friday.
It’s my third appearance for the Exiles – I’ll be starting off the bench – and I’m a supporter of the concept of International Origin, I think it’s a good way to have a competitive representative match or two in mid-season to help build the game. People need to back the idea, it’s only young, and it can still become more popular as the game progresses and the rivalry builds.
For guys like me, it’s a good chance to catch the eye of the New Zealand selectors. They’ve told me I’m still in the mix for a World Cup place, they’re aware that I’m available and that they’ll keep an eye on me so I just need to play as well as I can.
Hopefully if I can finish the season strong with confidence and in good form, and stay healthy, I’ll be selected, as I can play in a number of positions. But if not, I’ll be supporting the Kiwis 100%.
After this week, focus returns to St Helens and Super League. We’ve had a tough year, injuries have really tore the team apart, we had 11 or 12 players in the treatment room at one point, and were really struggling.
But it’s made us stronger, we’ve given a lot of young guys debuts, and they’ve done a great job, so that’s a good sign for the future.
Jonny Lomax and James Roby coming back to action is a big plus for us, as they are very influential players. We’re sitting eighth at the moment, so we know we need to work hard to get some wins and points on the board between now and the end of the season.