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Warrington Wolves forward hoping to play in England's World Cup opener against Australia
BEN Westwood is confident his chances of representing his country against Australia in the Rugby League World Cup opener will not be ruined by suspension.
Unlike teammate Chris Hill, Warrington Wolves’ powerhouse back rower misses out on the last chance to impress England boss Steve McNamara on Saturday in the national team’s only warm-up game, owing to the one-match ban collected for his punch on Wigan’s Blake Green in the Grand Final loss at Old Trafford earlier this month.
But the 32-year-old, England’s second most experienced squad man, feels he has a strong case for tangling with the Kangaroos in Cardiff on October 26.
“With having played all year, my fitness levels are all right and the week off could do me some good,” said Westwood, one of six survivors from England’s 2008 World Cup party.
“Steve has watched us all year and knows what we’re all capable of.”
He is taking nothing for granted though, with Carl Ablett, Liam Farrell, Gareth Hock and the three Burgess brothers all potential rivals for his spot.
“This year has been a good one for English back rowers,” said Westwood, who has pulled on an international jersey 23 times and figured in both games against Australia when the nations last collided in a tournament in 2011.
“It’s been all about working hard in training and hopefully I’ll get picked. I’m looking forward to working alongside the best of England.”
Westwood, Hill and the other 22 squad members returned from England’s training camp in South Africa on Tuesday in readiness for the country’s first ever meeting with fellow World Cup participants Italy at Salford on Saturday, kick off 4.30pm.
The work at high altitude in temperatures peaking at 37 degrees should stand England in good stead, but being a 12-hour flight away was not an intention to distance the players from rising excitement levels surrounding the world cup.
“We know what’s coming, we’ve been talking about it every day and it’s something we’re all looking forward to,” said Westwood.
“Training has stepped up a notch, the intensity is there.
“The lads know they may never get another chance to play in a World Cup on home soil.
“This has been on my mind for a few years and now it’s time to show what we can do.”
The World Cup caps off Westwood’s Testimonial year, with the finale being a winter ball at the Fir Grove Hotel on December 6.
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