Widdop aims to build on league success - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Widdop aims to build on league success

By Ian Laybourn 13/06/2010 11:22:59 PM Comments (0)

Gareth Widdop pledged to build on his fairytale England rugby league debut as he prepared to fly back to Australia to continue his apprenticeship under Billy Slater.

The 21-year-old from Halifax, who emigrated with his family five years ago, represented his country after just two NRL appearances for Melbourne Storm - where he is understudy to the game's leading fullback.

But he was an instant hit for England on Saturday, scoring the first of 11 tries in a 60-6 rout of France at Leigh Sports Village and providing the scoring passes for the next two touchdowns by Tom Briscoe and Sam Tomkins.

"I enjoyed it," he said. "It was obviously a good experience for myself and I hopefully I can get a few more games in the future.

"It happened so quickly. It was definitely a good start but you've got to look at the whole game. I was happy with the way it went.

"It was the first time we've met so obviously it's only ever going to improve and I'm definitely looking forward to the next few years."

Widdop - whose father Gary, a former professional with Keighley, flew over from Perth, western Australia, to watch the match - rated the experience better than wearing Slater's number one jersey for the first time against Canterbury Bulldogs last month.

"This is the best feeling I've ever had," he said. "I enjoyed playing against the Bulldogs - that was a massive thrill - but this was one of the biggest highlights of my life. My dad was over the moon."

Widdop will have less travelling to do for his next international appearance, which is expected to be in Auckland on October 16 when England play a warm-up match ahead of the Four Nations series in New Zealand and Australia.

Former Bradford forward Sam Burgess, who also made the 20,000km journey along with second-row partner Gareth Ellis of Wests Tigers, says he would not hesitate to repeat the whistle-stop trip next year and believes a precedent has now been set.

"I felt a little bit tired at times but I love pulling on an England jersey," said South Sydney's Burgess.

"I thoroughly enjoyed the few days in the camp with the boys. It will probably now be the case for years to come for myself and Gareth and other players if they decide to go over there."

England captain Jamie Peacock, who was in the Bradford side Widdop supported as a boy, believes the performance of the Halifax youngster, as well as those of Burgess and Ellis, justified the decision to fly them over for the mid-season match.

"Gareth is one of those natural rugby league players," said Peacock. "You could tell he is from a well-coached team. I thought he played exceptionally well to say it's his first game and he's just flown from the other side of the world."

Widdop lost out in the voting for man of the match to scrumhalf Sam Tomkins, whose four tries enabled him to equal the England record held by six players, including former Wigan winger Martin Offiah.

Older brother Joel Tomkins, the Warriors secondrower making his debut, provided the scoring passes for two of his tries, much to the delight of the boys' parents.

They became the first brothers to play for their country since David and Paul Hulme represented Great Britain against New Zealand in 1989 and Sam dedicated his four tries to their parents, who moved home to Wigan to improve their sons' rugby league career prospects.

"Mum and dad have always been behind us and it's good that we can give them this," said Sam. "It's paying off for all the time they've spent taking us around at St Pat's for training and playing."

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